History of Robotics

77-100 BC 

         The Antikythera Device was a mechanical computer that possibly calculated the position of the sun, moon, and planets. It is considered to have been created by Greeks.

270 BC
         An Greek engineer named Ctesibius created organs and water clocks that had movable figures. His water cook was a reservoir with a hold in the bottom, and was orchestrated so that it would take 24 hours for the water to empty out of the reservoir. 

278-212 BC
         Archimedes, a well-known inventor, created many mechanical systems that are still used in robotics today. He also helped with advances in mathematics.

10-70 AD
         The Hero of Alexandria, a mathematician, physicist, and engineer, wrote the book named Automata, a collection of different devices. He designed an odometer that was meant to be mounted on a cart to measure the distance that was traveled. He also invented a wind-powered organ, moving statues, and the Aeolipile. The Aeolipile, although it didn't properly function, is considered to be the base of a steam engine.

Medieval Times
         During the Medieval Times, many automatons were built. Automatons were creations that were designed to look like humans and were run on hidden mechanisms. They were mainly used to impress peasants to believe that there was a higher power. One automaton was a clock jack, a mechanical figure that told time by striking a bell with its axe.

         Leonardo da Vinci designed the first humanoid robot, although nobody knows if the design was ever actually produced. The robot was made to sit up, move its arms, and move its head while opening and closing its jaws.


         Blaise Pascal invented the Pascaline, a calculating device, to help his father with taxes. 50 Pascalines were built in total.


         Samuel Morland built a miniature version of the Pascaline.

18th Century

         Miniature automatons became very popular and were used as toys for very wealthy citizens. These automatons were built to simulate people and small animals.


         Jacques de Vaucanson built "The Duck". This device could flap its wings, eat, and digest grain. It was extremely detailed, with each wing containing over four hundred moving parts.


         Joseph-Marie Jacquard invented a machine that was programmed to create designs that would be printed onto cloth or tissue, much like an early sewing machine.


         John Brainerd created the Steam Man, a machine used to pull wheel carts and do other tasks. Later, Frank Reade Jr. built an electric version of the Steam Man.


         Westinghouse creates ELECTRO, a robot designed in human likeness that could walk, talk, and smoke. ELECTRO was featured at the 1939 world's fair.


         Isaac Asimov writes the "Three Laws of Robotics". Later, a zeroth law was added.

  • Law One: A Robot may not injure a human (or humanity), or, through inaction, allow a human (or humanity) to come to harm.
  • Law Two: A robot must obey orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with a higher order law.
  • Law Three: A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with a higher order law.

  • Law Zero: A robot may not injure a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm, unless this would violate a higher order law

          Also in 1942, William Pollard and Harold Rosalind created the first "programmable mechanism". The mechanism was a paint-sprayer, and was created for the DeVilbiss Company.

         George Devol created a playback device that controlled machines using magnetic recordings.

       While studying how electrons acted on the surface of a semiconductor, Walter Brattain accidentally created the first transistor.

         W. Grey Walter made his first robots, known as the turtle robots. The robots, Elmer and Elsie, could find their own charging stations when their power was running out.

         Raymond Boertz made the first tele-operated arm for the Atomic Energy Commission, which was a major milestone in force feedback technology.

         George Devol created the first completely programmable robot, named UNIMATE for "Universal Automation". 

         George Devol and Joseph Engelberger created the first robotics company, Unimation. 

Robots Today

Pepper - The Emotional Robot

         Recently, Aldebaran, a robotics company, created a robot named Pepper. Pepper, known as "the first humanoid robot designed to live with humans", is designed to read people's emotions and react accordingly. With an amiable and friendly personality, Pepper is meant to be the ideal companion. In fact pepper is already greeting customers in the stores of SoftBank Mobile, a major phone operator in Japan who commissioned the creation of Pepper. 

         Pepper's defining characteristic is that he can read human emotions. Pepper analyzes people's facial expressions, body language, and speech habits and translates them into his knowledge of the universal emotions (joy, surprise, anger, doubt, and sadness). Once he guesses your mood, he will react to it. For example, he may try to make people happier by playing their favorite song. Along with reading human emotions, Pepper is able to express emotions too. Pepper is known to have a unique personality based on his body language, voice, and funny gestures.


Computer Programming Language

There are many different languages that are used to give detailed instructions to a computer to do various tasks. Depending on the use for the computer, the programs can either be "high-level" or "low-level" programs. High level programs are easily read and written by programmers, while low level programs require programmers to manage individual operations and data. 

Machine and assembly languages - a machine language mainly consists of number codes that a computer can execute directly. This code is made up of the digits "1" and "0" . This code is very difficult to read or write because it is not similar to normal numeric notation or any human language. Also, the codes are different for each computer. Assembly language is a step above machine language. It uses some phrases for instructions, which contain blocks of data. For example, to add two numbers, instead of writing "0110101100101000", a person could write "add pay, total".

Algorithmic languages - algorithmic languages are designed to express mathematic and symbolic functions. They have similar notation to mathematics and have subprograms that enable the user to reuse commonly used operations. Algorithmic languages were the first high-level languages. There are several Algorithmic languages, like FORTRAN, ALGOL, LISP, and C (which has spin-offs like C++ and C++++).

Business-oriented languages - there are two main business-oriented computer languages: COBOL and SQL. COBOL could record data structure for businesses that had to compute and organize large amounts of data. Information such as name, ID number, age, and address were collected in a record through this language. This "chunking" appears in many modern languages. SQL is targeted towards organizing databases and can query a database for specific information. Many commercial database programs use this language.

Education-oriented languages - The four main education-oriented languages are BASIC, Pascal, Logo, and Hypertalk. Basic, designed at Dartmouth College, was intended to be an easy program to learn for beginners. It was translated line-by-line so it would be easy to spot mistakes. Pascal was used to emphasize conditional and loop control structures with no GOTO statements. It was similar to ALGOL's notation but could organize complicated data. Logo, created in the 1960s, was made to be a simplified version of LISP and to be used for education. It is very simple, and is used to teach mathematics and basic programming skills. Hypertalk allowed people to combine text, visuals, and audio into a group. Hypertalk was commonly used for school multimedia presentations.

There are also many other types of computer languages, including object languages, declarative languages, scripting languages, document formatting languages, and many others that all contribute to the world of technology that we know today.