Tuesday, October 20, 2009

18th century robots

Robots turning eeringly life-like... Androids replacing humans... It sounds we are on the verge of a whole new era in human history. Interestingly however we are not the first humans to think so.

When today we think that computers and robots might take over the world, our 16th century ancestors thought the clock will! The clock, with its moving hands and intricate mechanics had deeply impressed people. Descartes (a famous philosopher) actually envisioned that a clock could one day perhaps even move a person's legs.

The 18th century had its own little robotics-revolution. A lot of 'automata' were build at that time. These 'automata' were in a sense mechanical toys but the extend to which they were life-like really enchanted people. Needless to say, the first of these automata were constructed as gifts for Kings, Queens and Noblemen. I will list a few of these impressive creations below.

There is Jacques Vaucason's duck. A 'robot' duck that can sit, stand eat and... poo!

Then there is "La Joueuse de Tympanon". Notice how in this video she is even moving her head and eyes! Creepy!

And Henri Maillardet's "writer".

You can also check out this trailer. You can see various automata as well as Vaucanson's duck in action!

So I think by now it should be clear: We are not the first to wonder: "what if one day these robots start having a mind of their own?"...

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