The History of Robots

The history of robots begins all the way back in the ancient world. The modern concept of the robot began to develop with the industrial revolution. The first uses of modern robots were in factories capable of manufacturing tasks. Today, it is possible to imagine human sized robots with the capacity of near human thoughts and movements.

The Ancient World

The history of robots has its roots back in the ancient world. There were concepts of artificial servants and companions that traces back to ancient Greece, India, and China. Some of these concepts included three-legged tables that could move under their own power, mechanical robots to protect ancient relics, and a robot that could answer any question posed to it. Of course, most of these were stories or concepts, and none of them can be proven as being of existence.

Early Beginnings

In the early beginnings is when we see actual robots being of existence. Whether it be by sketch, model, or actual robots themselves. In the 1100’s, Al Jazari designed and constructed four automatic musicians that played music while floating on water. At the end of the 13th century, Robert II, built a number of humanoid and animal robots for his garden at his castle. Around 1495, Leonardo da Vinci sketched out a mechanical knight which was able to sit up, move his hands and arms as well as head and jaw. Skipping to the 1700’s, there were many robots being built, ones in which could act, fly, draw, and play music. Remote operated robots did not start to surface until the late 19th century when militaries started to use them for torpedoes and radios.


The first time the word “robot” was used was back in the 1921 film, Rossum’s Universal Robots. The word was derived from the Czech word ‘robota’, which meant servitude. Many films and TV shows throughout the 1900’s had robots in them including: The Twilight Zone, X Minus One, and The Lonely. In 1928, one of the first constructed humanoid robots was exhibited in London at the Model Engineers Society; it’s name was Eric and was remote controlled to move its hands, head, and even had voice control. In the early 1940’s, Isaac Asimov formulated the Three Laws of Robotics; which mainly consisted of robots knowing their place in society and never to harm a human. Throughout the rest of the 1900’s, many more robotic innovations occurred all over the world.

2000’s – Present

One of the most well known robots, the Roomba, the robotic vacuum cleaner, came out in 2002. Self driving cars started to make their appearance in 2005. Also, later that year, Honda came out with its updated ASIMO Robot, with new behaviors and capabilities. Robonaut 2, the first humanoid robot in space, is among the latest generation of the astronaut helpers, and now its main job is to teach engineers how other robots behave in space. Currently, self driving cars have now become more popular mainly through the car company, Tesla. Commercial and industrial robots are now more widespread in performing jobs more cheaply with greater accuracy. Other field in which robots have become more widespread in are surgery, weaponry, and assembly and packing.