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The great history of Robotics as we know it Published 11 June, 2019   Report Issue

The great history of Robotics as we know it

Before getting started with the history of Robotics, it is important to define what exactly a Robot is. This will help to increase understanding of the rest of this article. There are several definitions, but my best pick is this 1979 definition from the Robot Institute of America.

As per the definition from Robot Institute of America, A robot is defined as "A multifunctional, re-programmable manipulator or machine designed for moving materials, tools, specialized devices and other parts by means of predefined or pre-programmed motions which help in completing or performing different tasks." When you look at the history of robotics, you realize that robotics has a somewhat complex history. 

Robotics have been seen intertwined with the history of science, artificial intelligence, computer, technology and even the history of pneumatics and hydraulics.  The Robotics history can be traced as far back to the period where machines were not thought of or at least very popular.

We talk most especially of machines in the fiberglass, digital and metal forms.  One of the earliest and popular myths that existed was that humans were created from non-biological substances like clay, rocks, brass and a host of others.  This article will present to you an overview of the great history of Robotics as we know it.

Greek Mythology 

Before mankind’s knowledge, artificial beings became more mechanical; there had already existed several attempts by man to create artificial beings using other non-mechanical things. The History of Robotics can be traced far back to Greek Mythology, where the gods were said to have the power to create human-like figures.

According to Greek Mythos, the god of Fire, Hephaestus created human-like moving, speaking and thinking beings from bronze and gold. It has also been said that King Minos of Crete had asked Hephaestus to create a guard for the island. Also, according to some early Catholic Church legends, an alchemist known as Albertus Magnus had created a human out of metal. Legends say this man could answer questions and solve problems as well.


Egyptian Invention

An instance of where a mechanically built device was used in for doing a physical activity was during 3000 B.C. in Egypt. Human figurines were used for striking the hour bells in the water clocks in Egypt.

Also, around 400 B.C., Archytas of Tarentum, who invented the screw and the pulley, made a wooden pigeon which can fly. Statues that can speak and gesture and are operated using the hydraulic force were found quite commonly during 2nd century B.C in Hellenic Egypt.

In 1495, Leonardo da Vinci contributed to the history of Robotics when he designed his first humanoid robot. This robot had so many similar features to humans and was said to be able to wave, sit, move its head and close and open its jaws.

            Blaise Pascal also played a great role in the history of Robotics when he invented the machine for the calculation to help out his father with calculating taxes. He named this device Pascaline and built about 50 Pascalines to serve the same purpose.

A man gained more mechanical knowledge; they started producing other things known as automatons. Automatons were a great part and were objects that were designed to make movements or perform particular activities. In the 18th Century, Automatons were designed mostly to serve the rich, and some acted like toys for them. They were made either to mimic animals or humans. A good example is a Duck created by Jacques de Vaucanson in 1738. This Duck was fashioned to do things that normal ducks will do like: quack, bathe, drink, eat, and “digest” the food and drink. 

In 1865, John Brainerd made Steam Man for pulling wheeled items like Carts. In 1885, Frank Reade Jr. assembled "Electric Man," an electric adaptation of Steam Man. 

In 1921, the expression "robot" came into existence in a play called "Rossum's Universal Robots," shortly referred to as “R.U.R,” for the first time, written by Karel Capek, a Czech author. The storyline was straightforward and was about a man who created a robot to replace him and eventually, the robot murdered the man

Between 1937-1938, Westinghouse made ELEKTRO a human-like robot that could walk, talk, and smoke. ELEKTRO was first disclosed at the World's Fair of 1939.  In 1941, Science fiction author Isaac Asimov originally utilized "robotics" to portray the innovation of robots and anticipated the ascent of an incredible robot industry. Robotics alludes to the study and utilization of robots. It first came to fruition in 1941 and was first embraced by Isaac Asimov, a researcher, and author. 

Isaac Asimov was equally an important part of the history of Robotics in 1942 then he came up with the "Three Laws of Robotics." Azeroth law was later included,

• Law One: A robot should not harm a human, or, by not acting, let any human get harmed.

• Law Two: A robot should always follow orders from humans except in cases where those instructions are not in conformity with a higher order law.

• Law Three: A robot should protect and secure its existence as long in that capacity it is not in conflict with a higher law.

• Law Zero: A robot should not harm a human, or, by not acting, let any human get harmed, as long as it is not in conflict with a higher law.


• In 1948, W. Dim Walter made his first robots; Elmer and Elsie, otherwise called the turtle robots. The robots were equipped for finding their charging station when their batteries were running out of power.

In 1954, George Devol structured the first genuinely programmable robot and called it UNIMATE for "Universal Automation." Later, in 1956, George Devol and Joseph Engelberger framed the world's first robot Company which they called "Unimation" This led to Engelberger being known as the 'father of robotics.' Unimation is still producing more robots today.

In 1973, V.S. Gurfinkel, A. Shneider, E.V. Gurfinkel and associates at the Bureau of Motion control at the Russian Academy of Science made the first six-legged strolling vehicle. 

In 1973, Cincinnati Milacron discharged the T3, the primary commercially available minicomputer-controlled mechanical robot. 

In 1979 The Stanford Cart without any human assistance was able to cross a room. The Chart had a TV camera mounted on a rail which took pictures from different points and handed-off them to a PC. The PC examined the separation between the truck and the snags. 

In 1985, the RB5x a programmable robot Created by the General Robotics Corp had infrared sensors, remote sound/video transmission, bump sensors, and a voice synthesizer. It had programming that could allow it to learn on its surroundings 

In 1999, Personal Robots released the Cye robot. It carried out many household errands like conveying mail, carrying and moving dishes, and vacuuming. Probotics Inc made it. This innovation was a great one in the history of robotics

In 2000, Sony Dream Robots or SDR were first unveiled by Sony at the Robodex. It could perceive 10 unique faces, communicates feeling through discourse and non-verbal communication, and is capable of walking on different types of surfaces 

In 2002, Honda made the Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility (ASIMO). It is meant to serve as a personal assistant. It can recognize the face of its owner, recognize the voice and even the name of the owner.perceives its proprietor's face, voice, and name. It is also capable of reading emails and streaming videos to the computer from the camera.

In 2005, The Korean Institute of Science and Technology (KIST), made HUBO and considers it the most brilliant mobile robot on the planet. This robot uses a high-speed wireless connection to be linked to the computer, and as a result, the thinking and every other thing of the robot can be controlled by the computer.


As technology has advanced since the 2000s, there has been so much changing, and the history of Robotics has changed so much. There has been more advanced automation, and artificial intelligence which has changed the way robots were used in the past.

Automated machines are being programmed to perform one action repeatedly and are widely used in many industries like maritime exploration, manufacturing, military, space exploration, commercialized agriculture, etc. From history and how robotics evolved, one can begin to wonder what the future of robotics will be like.


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