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Wind-up toy (robot)

Smithsonian American Art Museum

track for robot marv

National Museum of American History

Roomba Robot Vacuum Cleaner

National Museum of American History
This mobile robot for vacuuming floors is a first-generation Roomba, a widely successful domestic robot. On the market beginning in 2002, the Roomba is a product of the firm iRobot, founded in Burlington, Mass., in 1990 by MIT roboticists Colin Angle, Helen Greiner and Rodney Brooks. A team of eight designed the robot, and the basic patent is 6,883,201.

The battery-operated Roomba rolls on wheels and reacts to its environment with the aid of sensors and computer processing. When it bumps into an obstacle or detects an infrared beam, a boundary line it does not cross emitted by a separate “virtual wall” unit, the robot will change direction randomly.

Entertainment Robot "Aibo" Ers-110

National Museum of American History

Silver Robot Mask

NMNH - Education & Outreach
This object is part of the Education and Outreach collection, some of which are in the Q?rius science education center and available to see.

A toy robot mask made in Japan by TBS Nichion, a broadcasting and music publishing company. The silver plastic mask depicts a robot with a prominent bridge running down the forehead and between the eyes. Two rectangular protrusions from the side of the head and the mouth have been spray painted red but the pigment is worn away. The two oval eyes are covered in a transparent orange plastic. Below the chin of the mask is a TBS Nichion sticker. A string is attached to both sides of the mask to affix it to the face.

Collapsible Robot kachina

National Museum of the American Indian

Robot Master, The

National Museum of American History

Camera, Robot, 35mm, MA-9, Faith 7

National Air and Space Museum
This hand-held Robot camera was used by astronaut L. Gordon Cooper during his Faith 7 mission on May 15 and 16, 1963, to photograph atmospheric phenomena. Early American space flights carried no official photographic equipment. By the end of Project Mecury, however, astronauts were often asked to particpate in photographic experiments. Cooper brought this camera on his mission to take photographs of the airglow layer and zodiacal light (dim-light photography) as part of an experiment for the University of Minnesota.

For use in space, the camera was modestly modifed to make it easier for Cooper to use while wearing his pressure suit. NASA added an automatic advance feature, fixed lens, and three small red "feet" to make it easier for Cooper to take photos up against the glass window of the spacecraft.

This camera was transferred from NASA to the Museum in 1976.

Watch a Robot Evolve

Smithsonian Magazine

Look out, humans! Robots can evolve, too. Sort of. Researchers have designed a mama robot that can build increasingly better baby robots — without help from humans, reports Mashable’s Lance Ulanoff.

In a study published June 19 in PLoS ONE, a team at Cambridge University in the U.K. equipped a robot with the ability to make a generation of new robots — bumbling blue plastic cubes with motors — using a basic robotic arm and gripper. Mama robot built ten babies at a time and analyzed how far and how quickly they could move.

In this case, the programmed construction template serves as the baby robot’s “genome,” with “genes” controlling traits like shape and motor commands. Over time, mutations arose. Some improved the robot’s ability to move, while others left it immobile. Across ten generations and five experiments, mama refined the baby design, continually selected the best-moving babies and preserved their traits in the next generation.

It’s not evolution in the truest sense because these babies don’t ever grow up and create generations of their own, explains Ulanoff. However, the results do hint at the possibility of artificial evolution using a natural selection process. Aside from building progressively more adept children, the mama robot also came up with new shapes and gait patterns that would not even cross the mind of a human.

Could robots that can artificially evolve turn on us one day? Don’t worry: The tech isn’t quite there yet. This mama robot might be creative, but she doesn’t pose considerable danger to the human race.

Toy, X-70 Robot

National Air and Space Museum
This metal X-70 robot is a tin toy manufactured in Japan for export to Western markets. In the 1950s and 1960s, its maker, Nomura, specialized in producing robot-themed metal toys, including several versions of an unlicensed "Robby" robot based on the popular robot character from the film "Forbidden Planet" (MGM, 1956). In post-WWII Japan, producing metal toys began as a way to tap into an international market for "penny toys" or cheap playthings, but developed by the late 1950s into a industry manufacturing creatively-designed, complex toys with moving parts and lights that competed successfully with Western toymakers. This X-70 toy reflects the Japanese fad for robots.

The Gewirz family donated this toy to the Museum in 2006.

The Milkman’s Robot Helper

Smithsonian Magazine

Santa’s Trusty Robot Reindeer

Smithsonian Magazine

"March for a Robot"

National Museum of American History
This sheet music is for the song “March for A Robot,” by Ada Richter. It was published by M. Witmark and Sons in New York, New York in 1935.

Britain’s First Robot Lives Again

Smithsonian Magazine

These days, robots help with everything from factories to surgeries, but back in the early 20th century they existed only in science fiction—except for a brief moment in the 1920s, when the British public was awed by presentations of a moving, talking mechanical man. The Robot, named “Eric," was the United Kingdom’s first robot and he quickly became a sensation among the public. Now, London’s Science Museum has resurrected Eric to wow robot-lovers once again.

Powered by a shocking 35,000 volts of electricity, the six-foot-tall, aluminum-coated robot could sit, stand and move his arms while shooting blue sparks from his mouth. His eyes were made of lightbulbs and as a nod to the origins of the modern robot in Karel Čapek’s play “Rossum’s Universal Robots,” Eric had the letters “RUR” emblazoned on his chest, Allison Meier reports for Hyperallergic.

By all accounts, Eric was an astonishing sight. But after going on a world tour sometime after his debut, Britain’s first robot vanished. Eric was likely dismantled and sold for parts, and while old newsreel footage and photographs showed off his fearsome-looking outsides, modern roboticists weren’t quite sure what made him tick, Tom Pritchard reports for Gizmodo UK.

“Recreating Eric has been a piece of detective-work,” Ben Russell, a curator at the Science Museum and the brains behind the project to rebuild Eric, writes in a blog post. “Using a handful of newspaper cuttings, a short film of Eric and the archive of Eric’s original creators we pieced together how he looked and moved to bring Eric back to life.”

Bringing Eric back to life wasn’t easy—or cheap. In addition to the archival research and custom design work needed to remake the famous robot, Russell and his colleagues had to raise quite a bit of money for the project. Turning to Kickstarter, they tried to raise nearly $43,000 to rebuild the robot and put it on display at the Science Museum. By the end, the crowdfunding campaign brought in more than $63,000.

Overall, rebuilding Eric took about five months. However, he has had a 21st-century upgrade: sculptor and robot-builder Giles Walker gave Eric 2.0 new joints that let him bend his elbows and move his head from side to side, as well as modern motors and electronics on his insides to power Eric’s movements. Eric’s eyes still glow a fearsome red, but luckily he no longer shoots sparks from his toothy mouth, Meier writes. Now, it just glows a gentle electric blue. On the outside, though, Eric looks just about the same as his predecessor, down to the letters “RUR” emblazoned on his chest.

Right now, Eric is on display at the London Science Museum through the end of November, with demonstrations of his 1920s-era movements (and a short speech by the metal man himself) taking place twice a week. However, starting in February 2017, Eric will return to the museum as part of the museum’s upcoming Robots exhibition before once again touring the world with his mechanical descendants. This time, though, he’ll come back in one piece.

Box, X - 70 Robot Toy

National Air and Space Museum
This box contained a space robot toy, a tin toy manufactured in Japan for export to Western markets. In the 1950s and 1960s, its maker, Nomura, specialized in producing robot-themed metal toys, including several versions of an unlicensed "Robby" robot based on the popular robot character from the film "Forbidden Planet" (MGM, 1956). In post-WWII Japan, producing these metal toys began as a way to tap into an international market for "penny toys" or cheap playthings, but developed by the late 1950s into a industry manufacturing creatively-designed, complex toys with moving parts and lights that competed successfully with Western toymakers. The artist's depiction of the toy inside dramatizes the toy, showing a metal-clawed robot standing on an outer space landscape with Saturn hanging above.

The Gewirz family donated this toy to the Museum in 2006.

Robot Swan Dances Swan Lake

Smithsonian Magazine

My Robot Helper of Tomorrow

Smithsonian Magazine

A Robot That Tells Jokes

Smithsonian Magazine

Something's Fishy about this Robot

Smithsonian Magazine

In a long and narrow basement room at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, RoboTuna has been taught to swim. RoboTuna is a "biomimetic" (imitating nature) Atlantic bluefin tuna that was conceived in the laboratory of Michael Triantafyllou, a professor of ocean engineering there. Why, he and his collaborators wondered, had no useful technologies ever been developed from studies of how fish swim? There was a definite need to improve upon the design of autonomous underwater vehicles. Could the propulsion system used by fish be applied to submarines or even surface ships? First they had to find out what made fish such efficient swimmers.

David Barrett, then a Ph.D. candidate at MIT, designed and built RoboTuna I using what he called "reverse engineering," finding out how Mother Nature, through thousands of years of genetic changes, taught fish to swim. Once RoboTuna was swimming well, Triantafyllou and his group began to analyze the play of water around the fish. The secret to efficient swimming, they found, was vorticity control. Fish propel themselves by manipulating the eddies they encounter in the water and those they create themselves by swishing their tails.

Several descendants of RoboTuna have been spawned, including RoboPike and a free-swimming robotic tuna developed at Draper Laboratory by Jamie Anderson, called VCUUV (for Vorticity Control Unmanned Undersea Vehicle). It is hoped that one day autonomous vehicles can use the efficient mechanics of fish propulsion for scientific research at sea.

Mini-Robot. Learning to Solder.

Lemelson Center, National Museum of American History
Learning to solder at the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh's Makeshop. Video by Joyce Bedi.

Miniature Autonomous Robotic Vehicle (MARV)

National Museum of American History
In 1996 researchers at Sandia National Laboratories, Albuquerque, N.M., developed tiny robots to investigate the miniaturization of mechanical systems. They sought to demonstrate the feasibility and learn the limitations of using commercially available components to assemble tiny autonomous mobile vehicles. About one cubic inch in volume, MARV housed all necessary power, sensors, computers and controls on board. It was the first robot of its kind made at Sandia and among the smallest autonomous vehicles anywhere.

On a custom track, the four-wheeled MARV detects and then follows a buried wire carrying a fixed radiofrequency (a 96 kHz signal). To accomplish this, the robot employs two Sandia-designed sensors to measure the relative strength of the radio signal. Based on the signal, the on-board computer decides where to move and directs two drive motors to steer toward the signal. Approximately 300 lines of computer code control the vehicle.

MARV’s main developers were Barry Spletzer, Thomas Weber, Jon Bryan, and Michael Martinez.

Miniature Autonomous Robotic Vehicle (MARV)

National Museum of American History
In 1996 researchers at Sandia National Laboratories, Albuquerque, N.M., developed tiny robots to investigate the miniaturization of mechanical systems. They sought to demonstrate the feasibility and learn the limitations of using commercially available components to assemble tiny autonomous mobile vehicles. About one cubic inch in volume, MARV housed all necessary power, sensors, computers and controls on board. It was the first robot of its kind made at Sandia and among the smallest autonomous vehicles anywhere.

On a custom track, the four-wheeled MARV detects and then follows a buried wire carrying a fixed radiofrequency (a 96 kHz signal). To accomplish this, the robot employs two Sandia-designed sensors to measure the relative strength of the radio signal. Based on the signal, the on-board computer decides where to move and directs two drive motors to steer toward the signal. Approximately 300 lines of computer code control the vehicle.

MARV’s main developers were Barry Spletzer, Thomas Weber and Jon Bryan.

Sports robot toy, "Pro Kicker 30"

Smithsonian American Art Museum
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