6 astounding ancient robot facts you should know about

Leonardo da Vinci’s Car

Hollywood movies about rogue robots created in us a fear of robots, and we most often than not, think of the machines in a negative light.

A robot is a machine that is designed primarily to carry out tasks with speed and precision. There are different robots created for various jobs, and while there are humanoid robots that are super intelligent, the robots rarely do anything they are not programmed to do. Most robots are used in manufacturing industries to build things such as cars, and in the military to do potentially dangerous tasks such as finding bombs.

Humanoid robots are fascinating to us because they are a lot like us. As Ken Goldberg so aptly put it, “We’re fascinated with robots because they are reflections of ourselves.”  As technology advances, we are building more intelligent robots that mimic every aspect of a human body. Here are a few interesting facts about robots.

1.    Robot Origins

The word robot came from “Robota,” a Czech word meaning, “forced labor.” It originally alluded to peasants who had no choice but to slave for the lords under the cruel Feudal system. Today, the name refers to any human-made machine that performs tasks for humans.

2.    The First Use of the Word Robot

The word Robot was first used in a 1920 play, R.U.R: Rossum’s Universal Robots, written by Karel Capek, a Czech writer. The robots in the play overthrow the humans who created them. Almost a century later, little has changed, and a lot of stories have been told about rogue robots.

3.    Leonardo da Vinci’s Car and Mechanical Knight

Among the earliest inventions of a robotic design was a car by Leonardo da Vinci in 1478. Da Vinci (pictured above) designed an autonomous and spring-driven system created for nothing more than sensationalism at the court. In addition, it must have caused sensation indeed at a time when a massive horse would have fazed the people; a car looking like a giant clock would have created a significant impression.

Around 1495, Da Vinci again, in detail, sketched a mechanical knight. The knight was a representation of how the human body structure could be duplicated. The knight was designed for fluid movement and was capable of sitting, standing, moving its neck, arms, and jaw independently and raising its armor visor.

4.    Aristotle’s Prediction

Politics, penned in 350 BCE by Aristotle, predicted that robots would one day replace slaves that performed household chores. He said, “There is only one condition in which we can imagine managers not needing subordinates, and masters not needing slaves. This condition would be that each instrument could do its work, at the word of command, or by intelligent anticipation.” Thousands of years later, this has come to pass.

5.    Robotic Steam Powered Pigeon

Archytas, a Greek Philosopher, was known for his invention of what could be the first flying device that was self-propelled. The flying pigeon, as it was called, had a hollow cylindrical body and with wings on each side. The pigeon’s rear had an opening connected to an airtight, heated boiler, which created more steam when it heated, causing the pigeon to take flight.

6.    Mechanical Monk

The mechanical monk was built in the 1560s and was a self-acting robot, 15 inches in height. When the monk was wound up, it completed movement series in a trance-like state, its mouth opening, and closing as if chanting. A legend says the King Phillip of Spain is the one who commissioned the monk to be built in the likeness of a certain monk who healed is the son from a near-fatal illness.


Robots have come a long way and are destined to go even further. There is no limit to the human imagination, and the fact that robots originated from the vision of man long before technology, it is an indication that we have further to go. Some fear that robots might take over the world someday, but it remains to be seen as robotic advancement hurtles forth unabated.