London’s Science Museum is on a mission: to rebuild the UK’s first humanoid robot.
The robot, named “Eric”, was built in 1928 and holds a unique place in robotics history. Ahead of his time, he was a talking, moving mechanical person. But then Eric mysteriously vanished.
Using original archive materials, the Science Museum wants to rebuild Eric and display him as part of their permanent collection.
Who was Eric?
Eric was given life by Captain William Richards and Albert Herbert Reffell, two World War I veterans.
The robot made his first public appearance on September 20th, 1928, when he opened the Society of Model Engineers’ annual exhibition ‘with a really sparkling speech’.
Captain W. H. Richards decided as ‘it is a mechanical show, let us have a mechanical man to open it’ and got to work creating Eric.
Eric was built just as robots were becoming a part of popular culture. Czech writer Karel Čapek created a 1920’s science fiction play called R.U.R., standing for Rossumovi Univerzální Roboti (Rossum’s Universal Robots).
This is when the word ‘robot’ was first introduced to the English language and to science fiction as a whole. You can see these letters on Eric’s chest.
Eric was a burly fellow. He was just over 99lbs and had an ‘armour-plated chest, legs and arms’ built from aluminium. Eric’s eyes were light bulbs and 35,000 volts of electricity shot blue sparks from his teeth.
The crowds were fascinated with Eric, and he traveled the globe with his makers, charming dignitaries and celebrities in the US, the UK, and Europe.
But then he vanished.
Was he lost, destroyed or recycled for spare parts? No one knows. But there are plans to bring him back to life.
The Science Museum plans to use photos and archived material donated by his creators’ relatives to recreate Eric. Roboticist Giles Walker has been commissioned to complete the project, and it’s estimated that the new Eric could be completed in just a few months.
If all goes well, the reconstructed robot will unveiled at the Science Museum in October.
But the museum can’t do it alone. They’ve started a Kickstarter that’s looking to raise £35,000 (roughly $50,551) to get the project started.
This isn’t a lot considering they’re seeking to preserve an important piece of history. While it won’t be the ‘real’ Eric, the new version of the primitive android will provide the public with an origin story and a look back to the beginning of robotics.
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