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From myth to reality and beyond

NASA Curiosity

Prof. Ing. Peter Hubinský, PhD.
Institute of Robotics and Cybernetics (IRC), STUBA
Bratislava, Slovakia

First references about artificial mechanical beings can already be found in the Greek mythology, such as the golden assistants of Hephaestus or automated tripods transporting the gods to Olympus, which are described by Homer in his Iliad.  The Talos giant and seductive Pandora were artificial beings as well.



First automated mechanisms based on hydraulics and tires were designed by Philo of Byzantium and later by Heron of Alexandria. Similar craftsmanship was later shown also by the Arab polyhistor Al-Jazari and some of the automated mechanical devices were designed by the Renaissance genius Leonardo Da Vinci.

Mechanical duck by Jacques de Vaucanson (foto: Wikimedia Commons)

Mechanical duck by Jacques de Vaucanson (credits: Wikimedia Commons)

The manufacture of automated machines has become the domain of clockmakers since 16th century. To mention only some, Juanel Turrian presented his mechanical monk, Jacques de Vaucanson created a well-known mechanical duck and Pierre Jaquet-Droz and his son created a flute player, drummer and the famous automatons of a writer, drawer and musician. The technology for mechanical recordings of operating instructions controlling the automaton limbs` motions was not far from the technology used later in the first automatic loom and lathe designed by Basile Bouchon and Christopher Spencer. Yet a fundamental change in the existing technologies was brought on by the development of semiconductor digital control electronics.

Presentation of the very first robot Unimation (credit: Unimation)

Presentation of the very first robot Unimation (credits: Unimation)

The first industrial robot suitable for handling parts was created by the American company Unimation and launched in a production line in 1961. Shortly after, the first cosmic automatons headed to explore the Moon and the neighboring planets. At this time, military applications such as unmanned planes and mini submarines were being deployed as well. Fledgling medical applications launched only in mid-80`s due to the delicacy of their area of use.
Later on, application areas for robotics have extended to explosives disposals and explorative and rescue missions. Also introduced were robotic toys (AIBO), robot building kits used in competitions (LEGO Mindstorm) and first domestic robots including robotic vacuum cleaners and mowing or floor-scrubbing robots (e.g. by iRobot).
Advancements in robotics go hand in hand with their application in every area of daily life where they can benefit their creators, the humans; and this is what can be expected from the future.


NASA Opportunity/Spirit

NASA Opportunity/Spirit


Prof. Ing. Peter Hubinský, PhD.


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