What was the first robot in history?


The world’s first humanoid robot is Elektro and was built by the Westinghouse Electric Corporation. This is his story.

The history of automation and robotics goes back to antiquity, much earlier than we might imagine (many think of Leonardo da Vinci as a great polymath and inventor genius, but we have to travel further back in time, to around 400 BC). . In fact, the idea of ​​a robot or automaton dates back to ancient Greece . One of the earliest known examples of an automaton is attributed to the ancient Greek mathematician and engineer Archytas of Tarentum (who is considered the father of mechanical engineering and one of the classic masters of robotics) .western). Archytas is believed to have built a mechanical bird, known as “The Dove”, which was capable of flight through the use of a steam-powered mechanism. While the original design and specifications are not extant, descriptions of Archytas’s work found in ancient texts inspired modern reconstructions of the automaton.

robotic time walk

But not only the Greeks. Throughout history, various cultures have contributed to the development of robotics and automation, such as China in the 3rd century BC. C., where we find the Chinese engineer and philosopher Moz i (who founded the school of Mohism) as the inventor of an automaton in the form of a wooden cart that could move without being pushed or pulled by animals or humans.

We also find ingenuity and creativity from the beginnings of ‘robotics’ in the Islamic golden age. During this time in history, spanning the 8th-13th centuries, Muslim engineers and inventors created a wide range of automata and mechanical devices . One of the most famous examples is Al-Jazari’s “Elephant Clock”, a complex water-powered clock that featured animated figures and a variety of moving parts. The work of Al-Jazari and his contemporaries laid the foundation for future advances in automation and robotics.

Moving a little further in time, in Renaissance Europe, in the 15th and 16th centuries, European inventors such as the immortal Leonardo da Vinci designed and built various automatic machines, including a mechanical knight that could move its arms and legs. These early European automata contributed to the development of modern robotics and helped shape the future of automation.

Manufacturing of Elektro in the 20th century

This is where we come to Elektro, considered the world’s first humanoid robot. It was an extraordinary creation that captured the public imagination and marked an important milestone in the history of robotics. We have to trace its origin to the Westinghouse Electric Corporation in the United States at the end of the 1930s. The man behind this creation was Joseph Barnett, a company engineer who designed and built the Elektro with the help of a team of engineers. . How was Elektro?. He had a height of 2.1 meters and a weight of around 120 kilograms. The robot was made of aluminium, steel and gears, and is an impressive feat of engineering for its time (remember, this is the 1930s).

The robot did not remain in storage at Westinghouse, but was exhibited at the 1939 New York World’s Fair. Elektro made its debut as part of the ” Tomorrow’s World” exhibition and caused a sensation among the public. Everyone wanted to see the automaton performing various tasks , such as walking, talking, and even smoking cigarettes. Elektro was able to recognize and respond to voice commands thanks to a system of photoelectric cells and vacuum tubes that allowed it to process sound.

Electro’s legacy

Although this robot was relatively simple in terms of functionality compared to the robots we can see today, it played an important role in popularizing the concept of humanoid robots and inspired future generations of engineers and inventors, and gave impetus to robotics in general. Later, following the path of Elektro, modern humanoid robots would arrive, such as ASIMO from Honda or, more recently, the fabulous Atlas from Boston Dynamics , a robot that incorporates increasingly complex mechanics to perform a wide range of tasks.

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