The History of Robotics, The Influence of Mythology and The Influence of Motion Pictures ~ MECHTECH GURU

The History of Robotics, The Influence of Mythology and The Influence of Motion Pictures

 The History of Robotics

The history of robotics is one that is highlighted by a fantasy world that has provided the inspiration to convert fantasy into reality. It is a history rich with cinematic creativity, scientific ingenuity, and entrepreneurial vision. Quite surprisingly, the definition of a robot is controversial, even among roboticists.

At one end of the spectrum is the science fiction version of a robot, typically one of a human form—an android or humanoid—with anthropomorphic features.At the other end of the spectrumis the repetitive, efficient robot of industrial automation. In ISO 8373, the International Organization for Standardization defines a robot as “an automatically controlled, reprogrammable, multipurpose manipulator with three or more axes.” The Robot Institute of America designates a robot as “a reprogrammable, multifunctional manipulator designed to move material, parts, tools, or specialized devices through various programmed motions for the performance of a variety of tasks.” A more inspiring definition is offered by Merriam- Webster, stating that a robot is “a machine that looks like a human being and performs various complex acts (as walking or talking) of a human being.”

The Influence of Mythology

Mythology is filled with artificial beings across all cultures. According to Greek legend, after Cadmus founded the city of Thebes, he destroyed the dragon that had slain several of his companions; Cadmus then sowed the dragon teeth in the ground, fromwhich a fierce army of armed men arose.Greekmythology also brings the story of Pygmalion, a lovesick sculptor, who carves a woman named Galatea out of ivory; after praying to Aphrodite, Pygmalion has his wish granted and his sculpture comes to life and becomes his bride. Hebrew mythology introduces the golem, a clay or stone statue, which is said to contain a scroll with religious or magic powers that animate it; the golem performs simple, repetitive tasks, but is difficult to stop. Inuit legend in Greenland tells of the Tupilaq, or Tupilak, which is a creature created from natural materials by the hands of those who practiced witchcraft; the Tupilaq is then sent to sea to destroy the enemies of the creator, but an adverse possibility existed—the Tupilaq can be turned on its creator if the enemy knows witchcraft. The homunculus, first introduced by 15th Century alchemist Paracelsus, refers to a small human form, no taller than 12 inches; originally ascribed to work associated with a golem, the homunculus became synonymous with an inner being, or the “little man” that controls the thoughts of a human. In 1818, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley wrote Frankenstein, introducing the creature created by scientist Victor Frankenstein fromvarious materials, including cadavers; Frankenstein’s creation is grossly misunderstood,which leads to the tragic deaths of the scientist and many of the loved ones in his life. These mythological tales, and many like them, often have a common thread: the creators of the supernatural beings often see their creations turn on them, typically with tragic results.

The Influence of Motion Pictures

The advent of motion pictures brought to life many of these mythical creatures, as well as a seemingly endless supply of new artificial creatures. In 1926, Fritz’s Lang’s movie “Metropolis” introduced the first robot in a feature film. The 1951 film “The Day the Earth Stood Still” introduced the robot Gort and the humanoid alien Klaatu, who arrived in Washington, D.C., in their flying saucer. Robby, the Robot, first made his appearance in “Forbidden Planet” (1956), becoming one of the most influential robots in cinematic history. In 1966, the television show “Lost in Space” delivered the lovable robot B-9, who consistently saved the day, warningWill Robinson of aliens approaching. The 1968 movie “2001: A Space Odyssey” depicted a space mission gone awry, where Hal employed his artificial intelligence (AI) to wrest control of the space ship from the humans he was supposed to serve. In 1977, “StarWars” brought to life two of the most endearing robots ever to visit the big screen—R2-D2 and C3PO. Movies and television have brought to life these robots, which have served in roles both evil and noble. Although just a small sampling, they illustrate mankind’s fascination with mechanical creatures that exhibit intelligence that rivals, and often surpasses, that of their creators.

Next Post »