• Question: who invented robotics?

    Asked by evilbugs to Alex, Kate, Marcus on 26 Jun 2014.
    • Photo: Marcus Johns

      Marcus Johns answered on 26 Jun 2014:

      Many people say that the father of robotics is Isaac Asimov. He was a writer was the first person to use the word ‘robotics’ in 1942. He’s famous for the Foundation series of books and for I, Robot (on which the film with Will Smith is based). He also came up with the 3 Laws of Robotics:

      1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
      2. A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would 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.

      A group of machines known as automatons that are similar to robots have been around for hundreds of years. They are non-electronic moving machines have been around since 1000 BC with descriptions being found in Ancient Chinese and Greek texts.

      ‘Robot’ originally came from the Polish word for ‘servitude’ and was first used by the Czech writer Karel ńĆapek in 1921. The first robot that you would think of as a robot – i.e. electronic and could operate by itself – was invented by William Grey Walter in 1948. He lived in Bristol and created two robots called Elmer and Elsie that were 3-wheeled robots that could find a recharging station when they ran low on power without input from a human.

      Hope that helps!

    • Photo: Alex Lyness

      Alex Lyness answered on 27 Jun 2014:

      Hey evilbugs,

      Robotics (as we know it today) started in the last Century as we started to use electronics and logic (how computers work) to control motors. But I have some cool fact for you…

      Pretty much every civilisation including Ancient China, Persia and the Egyptians wrote about wanting to have automatic servants, they were dreaming them up even back then!

      In the 4th century BC a Greek mathematician Archytas of Tarentum designed a mechanical bird he called “The Pigeon” which was propelled by steam. There are examples around this time of other clever Ancient Greeks designing ‘automatons’ which are like mechanical humans that run on clock work, although some of this may have been exaggerated in the mists of time.

      In 1495… That genius Leonard Da Vinci was designing them too, check out a recreation of his based on his sketches here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leonardo%27s_robot

      So although robotics as we know it seems fairly recent, humans have always been trying to make them they just didn’t have the best power source or control until we properly understood electricity!