A Brief History of Robots

By: | June 9th, 2015

A Brief History of Robots - Honda Collection

A Brief History of Robots – Honda Collection (Image Courtesy www.honda.com)

Since Karel Capek first introduced the world to robots in his 1920 Czech play, R.U.R.: Rossum’s Universal Robots, people have been fascinated by robots (and slightly afraid that they might take over the world).

Thirty years later, American author Isaac Asimov began to popularize robots through his science fiction books including I, Robot and The Bicentennial Man. While actual working robots have a long way to go before they live up to their science fiction personas, many exciting advancements in robotic technology have been made. Here are some of my favorite moments in the brief history of robots.

The following “Brief History of Robots” timeline extends from 3000 BC to 2014 and includes:

Graphic 1: 3000 BC to 1920

  • 3000 BC: Egyptian water clocks use human figurines to strike the hour bells
  • 1495: Leonardo da Vinci sketches plans for a humaniod robot
  • 1790: Industrial revolution introduces complex mechanics and electricity
  • Karel Cepek coins the term “robot”
3000 BC to 1920

3000 BC to 1920 (Image Courtesy Mouser Electronics)

Graphic 2: 1932 to 1957

  • 1932: Japan produces “Lilliput” the first robot toy
  • 1941-42: Isaac Asimov formulates the Three Laws of Robotics
  • 1951: Gort flashes his trademark eye-beam “The Day the Earth Stood Still”
  • 1954: George Devol invents “Unimate” the world’s first digitally operated and programmable robot
  • 1956: Robby the robot appears in the film”Forbidden Planet”
  • 1957: The Soviet Union launches “Sputnik” the first artificial orbiting satellite
1932 - 1957

1932 – 1957 (Image Courtesy Mouser Electronics

 Graphic 3: 1960-1994

  • 1960: Robot B-9 shouts out “Danger, Will Robinson” in the television series Lost in Space
  • 1977: George Lucas introduces R2-D2 and C-3PO in Star Wars: A New Hope
  • 1979: Carnegie Mellon establishes the Robotics Institute
  • 1984: The Terminator Blasts into the box office
  • 1992: The Inaugural FIRST Robotics Competition is held in a high school gymnasium in New Hampshire
  • 1997: NASA rover “Sojourner” successfully lands on Mars
1960 - 1997

1960 – 1997 (Image Courtesy Mouser Electronics)

Graphic 4: 2000 to 2007

  • 2000: The FDA grants approval to Intuitive Surgical’s da Vinci Surgical System
  • 2000: Honda debuts ASIMO, a groudbreaking humanoid robot
  • 2002: Roomba, the robot vacuum from iRobot begins cleaning homes everywhere
  • 2003: Kiva’s Mobile-Robot Fulfillment Robot System automates the warehouse environment
  • 2005: Self-balancing MURATA BOY goes for a bike ride
  • 2007: iRobot Packbots begin disarming bombs for the US Army
2000 - 2007

2000 – 2007 (Image Courtesy Mouser Electronics)

Graphic 5: 2012 to 2014

  • 2012: Nevada becomes the first state to issue a driver’s license to an autonomous car
  • 2013: Google buys eight promising robot startups while SCHAFT wins DARPA Robotics Challenge
  • 2013: Four Giant Industrial Robots are used to film the blockbuster “Gravity”


2012 -  2014

2012 – 2014 (Image Courtesy Mouser Electronics)

Article originally published on Mourser Electronics.

Justin Risedorf

Justin is a contributing author to IndustryTap.com and Mouser Electronics’ Bench Talk for Design Engineers blog who loves to read and write about the advancements of technology and robotics. When not at work, you can find him conquering Risk and Catan or on an adventure with his wife and kids. Last Father's Day he received a #1 dad shirt, so now that's official.

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