History of robotics – A glance of the robot’s evolution

The human being since the throughout history had the urge to find solutions to determined problems. There are many ways to accomplish this purpose, but the most interesting and more impactful one is through the application of a machine or device. That takes care of a certain task and execute it at a higher efficiency level than human beings. Robotics has evolved exponentially from its initial apparitions in history.

The need for machines

We understood that we have a vast amount of limitations. That deprives us of achieving a certain efficiency level, in which the process is “sustainable“. This concept was pretty clear in the early 1760s, and that generated the birth of the industrial revolution. In which productions methods transitioned into machine-based methods from hand production ones, the increasing use of steam power, the development of machine tools and the rise of the factory system.

History of Industrial revolution's machine.
Industrial revolution machine.

We achieved all this thanks to the realization that we as human beings can’t take massive loads of works. Instead what we can do is design, create and produce machinery that will handle work like no human being ever could. 24 hrs,  7 days a week,  and with an unmatchable level of efficiency.

History of the term “robot

So far we have accepted the main purpose of machines and any type of device in general. Which is to achieve what for us as human beings are unfeasible. At first, the term “robot” comes from the Slavic language as “robota” (forced laborer). A term which classified those peasants obligated to compulsory service under the feudal system widespread in 19th century Europe. It was first applied as a term for “artificial automata” in the 1920 play R.U.R. by the Czech writer, Karel Čapek.

robota RUR
An image of the Czech play Rossum’s Universal Robot

Robots like living beings

Throughout history, as we’ve seen machines, in general, were created to take those massive amounts of loads. Nevertheless, it doesn’t end there. We previously mentioned the term “automata” which means: self-operating machines.

The term automata is mainly used when describing a device that emulates the looks (shape, color, etc) and movement of a living being.

As a result of this approach when we see nowadays technology with robots that look, think and act like a human being.

One of the first recorded designs in the history of a humanoid robot was made by Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519). Around 1495. Leonardo’s notebooks rediscovered in the 1950s. It contained detailed drawings of a mechanical knight in armor. Which was able to sit up, wave its arms and move its head and jaw. Another remarkable mention is the Japanese craftsman Hisashige Tanaka, known as “Japan’s Edison“. He created an array of extremely complex mechanical toys. Some of which could serve tea, fire arrows drawn from a quiver, or even paint a Japanese kanji character.

Leonardo's Robot
Model of Leonardo’s Robot, capable of moving its arms, jaw and head

A video that explains and reviews the greatest work of Hisashige Tanaka. An insight into how he was able to create extremely complex mechanics without high-end technology.  Take into consideration that his automatas dolls were created in the early 1820s. Therefore it’s more than clear that Mr. Tanaka was ahead of his time.

To find out more about the evolution of automatas through history. Click this link

It’ll guide to a vast collection of information regarded to automatas. Categorized and segmented by a period of time.


Finally, this gives you a better understanding of where robotics came from, and how it has evolved a long time. The rapidly changing technology has allowed robotics the grow at an exponential level. Robotics was mainly focused on the mechanical aspect at first, but now robotics its more oriented to the electronic side. This is due to the development of small components capable of performing a complex task almost instantly. Also the development of advanced software that allows to analyze and control every single event at a super detailed level.

Hope this post has given you a new insight towards robotics. And how it has changed the world we live in.

Hope this was helpful. See you in the next post.

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