This is the second part of our articles about The History of Robots, in which we take a look at what Rossum’s Universal Robots is, what were some world-firsts in robotics from England to the USA and what is the use of robots nowadays. For the first part, click here.


The word ‘robot’ has been around for centuries. It is a Slavic word, that was used throughout Central Europe. It meant “unpaid forced work”, which is essentially what robots do. In the modern sense – programmable automatic machine – it was first used by Karel Čapek in his 1920 play “Rossum’s Universal Robots”. He later said that the idea for the word came from his brother Josef, a writer. In the play, a factory is manufacturing human-like machines to work, which miss some basic human traits, like emotions. These are called robots.


Use of Robots in a Scene from R.U.R.

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Driven by the influence of the play on him, British entrepreneur-turned journalist, W.H. Richards had built two robots. The first one was finished in 1928 and got the name Eric. On his debut, Eric delivered a 4-minute speech at an exhibition and instantly became a sensation. He could stand, sit, move his arms and mouth. His sole purpose was entertainment, but he was successful at that. According to reports, Eric was a rather terrifying sight, yet Richards toured the US and England with him. Two years later in 1930, Richards built the further developed counterpart of Eric, named George. He was more humane in the looks and once again, the inventor toured the world with the sensation.


A few years later in 1938, Westinghouse Electric Corporation built another humanoid robot, called Elektro. He was introduced to the public in 1939 at the New York world fair. He was capable of speaking about 700 words, blowing up balloons and smoking cigarettes, which was very popular at the time. There was a hole in his chest so that everyone could see there is no man inside secretly controlling the robot. He was a smashing success and widely used for commercial activity by the company. He was even featured in a Hollywood movie. He still exists to this day and a replica can be seen at The Henry Ford Museum.


Elektro in a museum

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A more practical use of robots, manufacturing, first appeared to George Devol, who patented his idea in 1954. Six years later, he was able to sell the first model of the Unimate to General Motors. The robot was used in a factory to lift hot metal pieces and stack them. Later on, many more sales were made to big automakers. The robotic arm was the first of its kind, yet in our modern era, such solutions are ever more present. We need to prepare our kids for the future, in which robots do the work, humans do the automation.


Robo Wunderkind


Nowadays there are many types of robots, which serve different purposes. The manufacturing solutions are already widely used, but so-called general-purpose robots are being developed as well, to help us humans go by our daily lives. Robo Wunderkind itself fits into a bunch of categories of robots. Education is one of them and we believe, that it is the perfect tool to introduce the young generation to coding and robotics. Its modularity and creativity-inducing nature is one-of-a-kind and it helps kids to work together or alone on their adventurous projects. Robots are already playing an important role in tomorrow’s society; to help your children prepare for this change, check out our robotics kit and learn more about how it works.