1. Elektro, the world’s first humanoid robot, debuted in 1939. Built by Westinghouse, the seven-foot-tall walking machine “spoke” more than 700 words. Elektro later appeared in the 1960 B movie Sex Kittens Go to College.
2. The first known case of robot homicide occurred in 1981, when a robotic arm crushed a Japanese Kawasaki factory worker.
3. Leonardo da Vinci drew up plans for an armored humanoid machine in 1495. Engineer Mark Rosheim has created a functional miniature version for NASA to help colonize Mars
4. Archytas of Tarentum, a pal of Plato’s, built a mechanical bird driven by a jet of steam or compressed air—arguably history’s first robot—in the fifth century B.C.
5. There are currently 4,000 robots serving in the US Military, including reconnaissance Talon bots that scout for roadside bombs in Iraq and PackBots that unsuccessfully poked around for Osama bin Laden’s hideout in Afghanistan.
6. Chris Melhuish of the Bristol Robotics Laboratory created robots that use bacteria-filled fuel cells to produce electricity from rotten apples and dead flies. The goal: robots that forage for their own food- essentially they wouldn’t need humans to survive.
7. Mini Me: Australian researchers are trying to build a micro robot that would mimic the swim stroke used by E. coli bacteria. It would be injected into a patient so it could take a biopsy from the inside.
8. Cybernetics professor Kevin Warwick calls himself the world’s first cyborg, with computer chips implanted in his left arm. He can remotely operate doors, an artificial hand, and an electronic wheelchair.
9. Winebot, built by Japan’s NEC System Technologies and Mie University, can ID scads of different wines, cheeses, and hors d’oeuvres . . . up to a point. It recently mistook a reporter’s hand for prosciutto. (In Winebot’s defense, that guy was a pig.)
10. Robotics expert Henrik Christensen predicts humans will be having sex with robots within four years. If you’re thinking, “Finally, no strings attached…” keep in mind that Hans Moravec, founder of Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Institute, predicts that robots will emerge as their own species by 2040, with feelings and expectations. In other words, if you don’t call your robot fling the next morning, you’ll be disassembled.
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