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History's 10 most influential robots

Elizabeth Fish | April 16, 2012
It wouldn't be right if GeekTech didn't do something for National Robotics Week, and if there is one thing this blog loves, it's robots. Robots are all around us, from the coffee machine in the kitchen at home, to the assembly lines in factories at work. But where did robots first come from? Which were the most significant in delivering the kind of machines we have today?

It wouldn't be right if GeekTech didn't do something for National Robotics Week, and if there is one thing this blog loves, it's robots. Robots are all around us, from the coffee machine in the kitchen at home, to the assembly lines in factories at work. But where did robots first come from? Which were the most significant in delivering the kind of machines we have today?

While there are hundreds of incredible robots to choose from throughout the ages, here is a list of just a few of the most significant or memorable robots throughout history, arranged in chronological order.

Around 350 BC: The Pigeon

That's right--the first robot is really that old. Archytas, the Greek philosopher, astronomer, mathematician, and statesman, may very well have laid down the principle of mathematical mechanics. Why? One of his many projects was a wooden mechanical bird, dubbed The Pigeon, which was propelled by steam and could apparently fly for up to 200 meters. This feat might not only be the first robot ever created, but also one of the first flying contraptions.

1495: Leonardo's Robot

Even Leonardo Da Vinci is responsible for part of robotics history--he made the first human-like bot. In 1495, he created a robotic knight which, according to sketches, would stand, sit, lift his visor, and move its arms.

Using the original sketches, modern-day designers managed to re-create the robot. The replica can perform all the aforementioned movements, which indicates that the original probably could too.

1738: The Duck

French inventor Jacques de Vaucanson created a number of autonomous robots in his time, but The Duck is one of his more revered works.

The mechanical duck had over 400 different parts, which isn't too surprising considering what it could do. It could flap its wings, and it could eat, digest, and subsequently defecate. That's a pretty impressive robot!

How Caucanson managed to make the robot digest and defecate by installing various compartments to chemically decompose the grain. Only now, 274 years later, do we see modern-day robots with the similar abilities, such as Ecobot--although Ecobot is purely one big digestive system, unlike The Duck, which performs other fun "tasks".

Unfortunately, nobody knows what happened to the Digesting Duck. There is, however, a museum in Grenoble that has a replica on display, made by a clock-maker.

1898: Tesla's Remote-Controlled Boat

While you probably know Nikola Tesla more for his incredible electric coils, he actually has another accomplishment next to his name in the field of robots.

When Nikola was looking for a way to demonstrate his wireless transmission system (what we now know as radio waves), he placed an iron boat in the water at Madison Square Garden during a conference and controlled it with a remote--the boat simply picked up the radio signals from the remote and carried out the commands from Nikola. Sadly, at the time, nobody quite realized how significant the remote-controlled boat would be to future robotics, toys, radio, and other devices we take for granted today.

 

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