London Science Museum wants to Rebuild the UK’s First Robot – Eric

London Science Museum wants to Rebuild the UK’s First Robot – Eric

May 11, 2016 @ 20:13 | 

UK’s first robot, Eric was one of the world’s first robots and has a unique place in history. This Robot was invented at Gomshall, near Dorking, by Captain William H. Richards, a veteran of the First World War, and a noted journalist and A. H. Reffell, a motor engineer.  What caused its invention was the need of an important person to take the place of the Duke of York in opening the Exhibition of the Society of Model Engineers, in London. As Richards was secretary of the organization, he decided to make a Robot who could open the exhibition. On 20th September 1928  at the at the Royal Horticultural Hall, Eric arose, bowed, looked to the right, to the left, and, with appropriate gestures, proceeded to give a four minute  opening address.

Eric Robot
(Eric opening the Model Engineering Exhibition in London in 1928, as shown in Popular Science Monthly. Credit: Science Museum)

It was built at a time when robots had just become part of popular culture. The word ‘robot’ was first introduced to the English language in R.U.R., a 1920 play by Czech writer Karel Čapek. R.U.R. stands for Rossumovi Univerzální Roboti (Rossum’s Universal Robots). These letters can be seen on Eric’s chest.

Related Article: Shakey: the World’s First Mobile, Intelligent Robot

Then Eric disappeared. Was he lost, destroyed or recycled for spare parts? No-one knows. But you can be part of bringing Eric back to life. London Science Museum wants to rebuild this famous humanoid robot and started a campaign on kickstarter.

London Science Museum tracked down the relatives of Eric’s original creators and they have helped to gather enough original imagery to bring him back to life.

Roboticist expert Giles Walker has commissioned to rebuild Eric in the UK. Giles has already made working drawings based on archive materials and discussions with Science Museum curator Ben Russell. You may be able to see Eric on display for free in the Museum from October 2016 for a month.

Eric Robot:

Eric Robot
(Credit: Science Museum)

Eric’s body was made of aluminium, not unlike a mediaeval knight in armor. His eyes are white bulbs with red pupils painted on them. His feet were fastened to a box, in which there was a twelve-volt electric motor. Inside his body there was another motor, eleven electro-magnets, and about three miles of wiring. He could move his arms and his head, and stand up.

Eric could be controlled through two methods. One was the use of remote wireless where a hidden person was able to answer the questions asked. Eric could not think so he had 50-60 questions pre-prepared, otherwise the answer was ‘”I do not know, sir (or madam)”, getting the gender correct further giving away the fact that a hidden person was providing the answers. The second method was the direct control of Eric’s movements using voice control by uttering numbers which made a certain rate of vibration on a wire inside the robot to the corresponding number to trigger a circuit.

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