Special Report

100 Years of Robots: How Technology - And Our Lives - Have Changed

1. R.U.R.
> Year: 1921
> Made by: Karel Čapek

R.U.R. refers to the play “Rossum’s Universal Robots,” written by Czech playwright Karel Čapek. The word robot comes from the Czech word “robota,” or forced labor, and is derived from the Slavic root word “rab,” meaning slave.

2. Eric
> Year: 1928
> Made by: William H. Richards and A.H. Reffell

One of the world’s first actual robots, Eric was created as a stand-in for Queen Elizabeth’s father, the Duke of York. The royal was supposed to officially open the Royal Horticultural Halls, but one of the robot’s makers, William H. Richards, thought that a show he considered to be mechanical should be opened by a mechanical man.

3. Gakutensoku
> Year: 1929
> Made by: Makoto Nishimura

Gakutensoku was a robot created in Japan as part of an exhibit to mark the ascension of the emperor. The robot was powered by air pressure, stood 7 feet 8 inches, and could render characters with a pen.

4. Teletank
> Year: 1930
> Made by: USSR

Teletanks were remotely controlled unmanned tanks made in the Soviet Union in the 1930s, created to lower casualties among Soviet soldiers. They were first deployed during the Winter War between the Soviet Union and Finland.

5. Elektro
> Year: 1939
> Made by: Westinghouse

Westinghouse built Elektro in the late 1930s, and the robot was a hit at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York. The robot was 7 feet tall and could walk by voice command via headset. Elektro told jokes and smoked.