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team7a:Chronology of key events

~1400 B.C. - 1737: Early stages

  • ~1400 B.C. - Babylonians created one of the earliest account of robotic devices, the water clock, an instrument to measure time. The water clock is described as "stone vessels with sloping sides that allowed water to drip at a nearly constant rate from a small hole near the bottom". 1
  • ~425 B.C. - A Greek mathematician, Archytas of Tarentum, also known as the father of mathematical mechanics, built the world's first flying machine. The machine, called "The Pigeon", was thought to be jet-propelled, and it said that "The Pigeon" was able to flew 200 metres in the sky. However, once it dropped down to the floor, it cannot take off again. 2
  • 1495 - Leonardo da Vinci designed the first humanoid robot, which takes a knight appearance and can do various human-like motions such as sitting down and moving its arms.

    Leonardo's robot design

1738 - 1960: First true robots

  • 1738 - team7a:Jacques de Vaucanson built three automata. One is a flute player, the other is a tambourine player, and the last one is a life-like duck.
  • 1773 - Pierre and Henry Louis Jaquet-Droz built three dolls that can write, play music and draw picture respectively.
  • 1801 - Joseph Jacquard invented automated textile machine which is controlled using punch cards.
  • 1897 - Nikola Tesla demonstrated the world's first remote-controlled vehicle, a tiny boat that is remotely controlled using radio waves. Tesla called his boat a "teleautomaton" and said of it, "You see there the first of a race of robots, mechanical men which will do the laborious work of the human race." 12

    Tesla's remote-controlled boat

  • 1921 - The word "robot" was published by the Czech writer Karel Capek. It appeared in his play R.U.R (Rossum's Universal Robots). However, Karel Capek named his brother Josef Capek as the true inventor of the word "robot". The word "robot" originated from the word "robota", a Czech term for forced labour. 3
  • 1926 - Fritz Lang's film "Metropolis" is released. "Maria", a female robot within the film is the first robot to be projected onto the silver screen.
  • 1927 - "Televox" was created by Westinghouse Electric Corporation, it was able to supervise water containers in a high-rise building, start pumps, answer questions about the water level, turn on a ventilator or a vacuum cleaner, operate light switches, open windows and close doors. 4
  • 1929 - Gakutensoku (Japanese for "learning from the laws of nature") was Japan's first robot. It was created in Osaka by Makoto Nishimura. 5
  • 1942 - Issac Asimov invented the term "robotics" in his short story fiction "Runaround", which is part of the collection "I, Robot". He also created the Three Laws of Robotics.

    Asimov's book "I, Robot"

    ...Later made into a blockbuster movie

  • 1949 - Elmer and Elsie were the first electronic robots created by William Grey Walter, they were able to sense light and contact with external objects, and use these stimuli to navigate.
  • 1959 - Artificial Intelligence Laboratory was started at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

1961 - 1997: Industrial age

  • 1961 - UNIMATE, the world's first industrial robot arm was introduced. It was used in General Motors factory.


  • 1963 - The Rancho Arm, the first computer controlled artificial robotic arm, is created.
  • 1966 - An artificial intelligence program, ELIZA, which simulates a psychologist in answering the user's input questions through manipulation of the questions.
  • 1969 - Victor Scheinman, a Mechanical Engineering student in the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Lab (SAIL), created the Stanford Arm. The arm's design became an industrial standard and is still influencing the design of robot arms today.
  • 1973 - WABOT I was built in Waseda university, Japan by Ichiro Kato. It was the world's first full-scale anthropomorphic robot.
  • 1974 - Victor Scheinman, creator of Stanford Arm started his own company and introduced Silver Arm, which is capable of assembling small parts together using touch and pressure sensors.
  • 1976 - At the Tokyo Institute of Technology, Shigeo Hirose created the Soft Gripper, capable of wrapping around an object like a snake.
  • 1977 - George Lucas' blockbuster movie Star Wars was released. The movie "creates the strongest image of a human future with robots since the 1960's and inspires a generation of researchers". 6

    Robots R2D2 and 3-CPO in the movie Star Wars

  • 1977 - Deep space explorers Voyagers 1 and 2 were launched from the Kennedy Space Flight Center.
  • 1980 - Japan was officially the number one country in the world for usage of industrial robots (50% of industrial robots used in Japan), and remained in the top rank to this day. 11
  • 1980 - Ichiro Kato, the creator of WABOT I, built WL-9DR, which is the first robot capable of quasi-dynamic walking.
  • 1981 - Takeo Kanade built the direct drive arm, in which motors were installed directly into the joints of the arm, making it much faster and more accurate than previous robotic arms.
  • 1989 - Genghis is introduced by the Mobile Robots Group at MIT. It became popular for the way it walks, called the "Genghis gait".
  • 1990 - Robodoc, a robot for medical purpose performed a hip-replacement operation on a dog (1992 on a human patient).
  • 1993 - Honda P1 was introduced which would inventually be improved to ASIMO.
  • 1993 - Dante, an 8-legged walking robot, descended into Mt. Erebrus, Antarctica to collect data from a harsh environment to simulate another planet in space. However, its tether snapped and it dropped into the crater.
  • 1994 - Dante II, an improved version of Dante I descended into the crater of a volcano, Mt. Spurr to sample volcanic gases. The mission was successful.

1998 - Now: Boom of consumer robots

  • 1998 - Furby, a robot toy became a popular gift for the Christmas season. It can react to its environment and can be communicated using 800 different English phrases as well as its own language, "Furbish".


  • 1998 - LEGO released their first Robotics Invention System, called "MINDSTORMS".
  • 1999 - Aibo was released by Sony. It reacts to sound and has programmed behaviors. It sold out within 20 minutes of going on sale.
  • 2000 - ASIMO was introduced to the world by Honda.
  • 2004 - The Micro Flying Robot, world's lightest and smallest robot helicopter, was released by Epson.

    Micro Flying Robot

  • 2005 - The world's first claimed self-replicating robot was built by researchers at Cornell University.

    Self-replicating cube

team7a:Notable figures contributing to robot development

Al-Jazari (1136-1206)

Born during the Islamic Golden Age, Al-Jazari is a famous Arab scholar, inventor, mechanical engineer, craftsman, artist and astronomer. In 1206, He wrote "Kitáb fí ma'rifat al-hiyal al-handasiyya" or "Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices". The book contains information to construct 50 mechanical devices he designed.

Of the various designs in the book, automata of all kinds are described. For example, there are automated moving peacocks which is hydro powered, waitress serving drinks and musical robot band.7

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Jacques de Vaucanson (1709-1782)

A French inventor who built one of the earliest real robots in the world. In 1737, he built the Flute Player, a life-sized robot shepherd which plays the pipe and tabor. Later that year, he also built the Tambourine Player and the Digesting Duck.

The Digesting Duck could be said to be his most known work. This complex automation could "flap its wings, eat, and digest grain. Each wing contained over four hundred moving parts and even today it remains something of a mystery." 8

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Tanaka Hisashige (1799-1881)

Tanaka is Japan's mechanical genius comparable to the great Thomas Edison. He founded Tanaka Seizosho (Tanaka Engineering Works) in 1875, which after much changes evolved to the currently known Toshiba Corporation in 1978.

Tanaka' most notable works included the 'Myriad year clock' and the arrow-firing automaton 'Bowing Boy'.

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George Charles Devol Jr. (1912-)

In 1946, Devol patented a magnetic recording system and a digital playback device for controlling machines.

In 1961, he was awarded with patent for Universal Automation or Unimation, a design for his first programmable robot. He co-founded the world's first robot company Unimation, Inc. with Joseph Engelberger and produced the first industrial robot in the world, Unimate, which is his invention.

In the later years, Devol obtained patents "on visual and tactile sensors for robots, coaxial connectors, non-refillable containers, and magnetostrictive manipulators or 'microrobotics', a field he created". 9

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Joseph Engelberger (1925-)

Joseph Engelberger is widely regarded as the "Father of Robotics". He founded Unimation with Devol to create industrial robots.

He had received many awards for his contribution to robotics, these include:
- Progress Award of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers
- Leonardo da Vinci Award of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers
- 1982 American Machinist Award
- McKechnie Award from the University of Liverpool
- Egleston Medal from Columbia University
- 1997 Beckman Award
- 1997 Japan Prize. 

In recent years, Engelberger has been focusing on using robots for medical purposes. He invented the HelpMate, a robotic hospital courier, which is widely known and has been used in hospitals around the world. 10

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  1. Unknown User (u0708978)


    can you do it in a timeline sort of way?

    i attended the lecture the other day and the lecturer said that it's a better way to present the ideas


    Hi guys, i will be doing my parts by tom. i hope that you guys can start posting some more info too alrightsss?

    and and the lecturer said that it must all be done in different pagess.


  2. Unknown User (u0807006)

    Huh? Isn't what I'm doing now a timeline? What do you mean by timeline?