The history of robots

The History of robots Have their origin in ancient Greece and the early dynasties of China [1] . Traces of primitive robots can be found in the first century. These devices, known as Automatons (A word of Greek origin meaning"acting of its own accord"), were basically machines with non-electric movements that simulated human or animal actions.

Historical records speak of a"mechanical orchestra"built by Chinese artisans in Han Dynasty (200-300 A.C.). Other documents describe the construction of a steam-operated bird built in the fourth century BC. By the Greek mathematician Archytas of Tarentum.


During the Middle Ages, both in Europe and the Middle East, some automatons became popular as part of the clock mechanism. As described in his own texts, diagrams and illustrations, the Arab mathematician Al-Jazari (1136-1206) was able to construct various mechanical devices. Among them, a large clock in the form of an elephant that sounded every hour and a waitress automaton that served drinks [2] .

The Renaissance brought its own version of robots, such as the humanoid automaton conceived by Leonardo da Vinci in 1495. According to his illustrations, he could perform quasi-human movements such as sitting, moving his arms, legs and rotating his head. His appearance was like that of a knight in his medieval armor.

The Industrial Revolution and the growing focus on mathematics, engineering, and science in Victorian England gave momentum to the development of robotics as we know it today. Charles Babbage (1791-1871), considered the father of computing, built the bases of computing in the early nineteenth century.

Still unfinished, his projects to develop the machine of differences and the analytical machine created the bases for the development of mechanical calculation, which gave rise to modern computational science. At the same time, some factories began to use machines to increase productivity and precision in their production lines.

Origins of the term robot

The term robot Was introduced to the popular vocabulary with the publication in 1920 of the work R. U. R. ( Rossum's Universal Robots or Universal Robots of Rossum ), By the Czech author Karel Capek. The word was taken from an old Slavic word meaning roughly"monotonous or forced labor."

The word Robotics , Meanwhile, was coined by Isaac Asimov In 1942, when he proposed the Three Laws of Robotics in his short story Runaround:

  1. A robot can not hurt a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to cause harm.
  2. A robot must obey orders received from humans, except for those orders that conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

The idea of ​​artificial intelligence hovered over the minds of the scientific community during the 1940s. Alan M. Turing (1912-1954) was a British scientist, mathematician and computer scientist who asked himself the question"Can machines think?" During his career he worked on creating a system for computing large amounts of information at high speed.

Hebert Simon (1916-2001) was an American scientist who put into practice the theories of Turing and in 1956 he answered affirmatively the question of the British by means of the creation of a computer capable of proving mathematical theorems. It was true, a lifeless machine was able to think logically, which gave impetus to the development of artificial intelligence.

The first industrialist

A few more years would pass before the one that is considered the first industrial robot to start working. In the 1950s, George Devol (1912-2011) designed the Unimate (a result of combining the words Universal Automation), a robotic arm that carried metal frames in a General Motors factory in New Jersey.

The first quantum leap, however, occurred on October 4, 1957. The former Soviet Union succeeded in launching Sputnik I, the first autonomous artificial satellite in history. With a weight of 83.6 kilograms, the satellite orbited the earth transmitting signals for three weeks.

The arms race put the world powers in competition for creating robots and artificial intelligence systems at the service of the war industry. Many of these creations were developed in universities and scientific institutes.

Such is the case of Shakey, who is considered the first mobile robot with the ability to perceive and reason about its environment. It was developed by the Stanford artificial intelligence laboratory, making use of advances in the areas of robotics, computer vision and natural language processing. It was the first robotic project to combine logical reasoning with physical action [3] .

A new generation of robots emerged during the 1970s, thanks to the arrival of microprocessors. The physical form was perfected and the software was improved through more powerful programming languages.

This new wave of robots took advantage of the emergence of cameras and sensors to adapt to the surrounding environment and, sometimes, to adjust their programs in real time. The first example of a robot that actually walked and talked was found in Japan, through Wabot-1, built at Waseda University.

Since then, many robots and androids have facilitated the life of the human being. Such is the case of Robonauta, a humanoid robot operated from the Dexterous Robotics Laboratory, at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. Built in 2000, the skilled robot has hands that can manipulate space tools and work in environments where astronauts do not.

Current Robots

The most visible current example, perhaps, is ASIMO. A robot with a human figure 130 centimeters high, created by the Honda Research and Development Center in Japan, you can walk and even run. ASIMO can detect the movements of multiple objects and measure their distance and direction, allowing you to greet hand to the people who approach it [4] .

From steam birds to androids in space, the history of robots has definitely meant a series of huge leaps for humanity.


[1] History of Robotics. Taken from

[2] A brief history of robots. Taken from

[3] Shakey the robot. Taken from

[4] History of robots, from start to finish. Taken from

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