Toy robot

Robots Through History

  • Jan 1, 1495

    Leonardo's Robot

    Leonardo's Robot
    Leonardo Da Vinci designed a robot knight that was capable of standing, sitting and moving its arms. Da Vinci never built the robot but some German engineers did build it after Da Vinci's original sketches were found in the 1950’s. Amazingly the robot worked just as Da Vinci had intended. The robot is still on display in a museum in Berlin.
  • Period: Jan 1, 1495 to

    The History of Robots

    Science Boffins are excited by the news that Curiosity has landed on Mars and we thought this would be a great time to take a look at robots from way back to the time of Leanardo Da Vinci right up until today.
  • Mechanical Puppets

    Mechanical Puppets
    Mechanical puppets began to appear towards the end of the 16th century. They were not robots in the truest sense because they did not perform actions independently. That said, the mechanical puppets were more sophisticated than clockwork toys and were often used in theatre productions for children.
  • The Digesting Duck

    The Digesting Duck
    The Digesting Duck (a.k.a The Duck of Vaucanson) was a robot made by Jacques de Vaucanson in 1739. The duck appeared to be able to eat food, digest it, then poo out any left overs. It was revealed however that the duck did not actually digest anything at all and stored the food; creating the poo separately. While it didn't really work for its original purpose The Digesting Duck is thought to be one of the first fully functional "true robots".
  • Pierre Jacquet-Droz

    Pierre Jacquet-Droz
    Pierre Jacquet-Droz created “automons” for entertaining people. These mechanical people could draw, others could write and some could dance.
  • Robot Mucisians

    Robot Mucisians
    Robot musicians were popular in the 19th century and they used similar technology to player pianos (i.e. they had a repertoire of songs programmed into them that they could play). Most of these were coin operated amusements but more complex robot musicians had mechanical limbs and could "dance" as well as playing.
  • Karakuri Robots

    Karakuri Robots
    Karakuri robots were popular in Japan throughout the 19th century. Though essentially manufactured as toys these robots were able to perform tasks such as serving tea. Tanaka Hisashige (September 18, 1799 – November 7, 1881) is credited with inventing the Karakuri robots; his son went on to form Japanese technology firm Toshiba.
  • Nikola Tesla

    Nikola Tesla
    Nickola Tesla invented the first radio control vehicles in 1890. This innovation revolutionised how robots are powered because they no longer had to rely on clockwork, cogs or pulleys.
  • Gakutensoku

    Gakutensoku was a robot designed in Osaka, Japan in 1929. Gakutensoku was the first robot that reacted to its surroundings. Gakutensoku had a pet robot bird that would cry; causing Gakutensoku to change its facial expression. Gakutensoku also had a lamp in its left hand and whenever it shone Gakutensoku would write with a pen in his right hand.
  • Electro and Sparko

    Electro and Sparko
    Electro and Sparko were a robot man and dog who appeared at the World’s Fair events in 1939 and 1940. Electro could blow up balloons, move his arms and legs and even speak up to 700 words which were stored on a record player in his body. Electro could also react to voice commands and recognise the difference between red and green lights. Sparko could walk alongside Electro and perform dog tricks such as begging.
  • Unimate

    Unimate was the first robot used in a factory. It was a simple robotic arm that was used to move things from one part of a conveyor belt to another. Unimate was "employed" by American car manufacturer General Motors.
  • WABOT-1

    WABOT-1 was the first anthropomorphic (human like) robot. It was the first robot to move independently on two legs and use its arms, and other appendages, for balance.
  • Lego TC Logo

    Lego TC Logo
    Lego introduced Lego TC Logo in 1986. This allowed children to build simple programmable robots using a home computer and modified Lego bricks.
  • Robocup

    In 1997 the first Robocup soccer tournament was held in Nagoya, Japan. The 1997 robots had fairly basic motion detection technology and were not particularly good at soccer. Despite this, the cup still takes place to this day and the competing robots are becoming more advanced each year.
  • Asimo

    Asimo is an anthropomorphic robot that has been designed with the purpose of helping people. Asimo uses a complex arrangement of cameras within its head to assess the world around it - this means Asimo can decide how fast to run and how big its steps should be. The cameras also allow Asimo to recognise how people move and it can react to their movements.

    TOPIO is a robot designed to play table tennis against human beings. TOPIO uses a similar sort of camera technology as Asimo but can recognise movements much faster. TOPIO also has a computer programme which allows it to get better at table tennis the more it plays.
  • Curiosity

    Curiosity is a robot designed by NASA. On the 6th of August 2012 Curiosity landed on Mars - its mission is to analyse the surface of the planet and find any signs of life; past or present. Curiosity can analyse rocks on Mars by digging them up and placing them into a chamber within its body. Curiosity also has a head mounted laser beam which can burn into rocks; allowing Curiosity to analyse the smoke, powder and residue left from the blast.