It’s National Robotics Week, and we feel we owe a lot to those who’ve worked tirelessly over the past 2500 years or so (yeah, it goes back that far) in dreaming up, designing, building and programming mechanical marvels. The following is but a mere sample of what’s been accomplished in robotics, but it represents how far we’ve come. Here’s to the next 2500 years!
Somewhere between 428 and 347 BC
Archytas of Tarentum builds "the Pigeon", a steam-propelled mechanical bird.
Greek philosopher Aristotle dreams of automated, mechanical humans that will help us with work. He muses, “If every tool, when ordered, or even of its own accord, could do the work that befits it... then there would be no need either of apprentices for the master workers or of slaves for the lords."
Pierre Jaquet-Droz and son Henri-Louis Jaquet-Droz make automata for European royalty, including three dolls: one could write, one could draw, and one could play music.
Nikola Tesla builds a remote controlled robot boat and shows it off at Madison Square Garden.
Isaac Asimov writes a story about robots, and in doing so, pens a set of three laws for robots.
Heinrich Ernst of MIT creates the MH-1, a computer-operated mechanical hand.
Victor Scheinman, a student in Stanford Artificial Intelligence Lab (SAIL) creates the Stanford Arm.
Shigeo Hirose of the Tokyo Institute of Technology creates the Soft Gripper.
Dean Kamen founds FIRST Robotics competitions, and students worldwide get a shot at being engineering all-stars.
David Barrett of MIT designs RoboTuna, to be used to study the way fish swim.
Amy Leask is VP of Enable Education, and author of "According to Phil: A Young Thinker's Guide to Robots". She's still waiting for the modern version of Rosie from The Jetsons to take over her housekeeping.