1982 – RB5X the Intelligent Robot – Joseph Bosworth (American)

The RB5X is a personal robot manufactured by RB Robot Corporation of Golden, Colorado.
A cylinder-shaped robot with an optional arm, and a transparent, dome-shaped top, RB5X has an RS-232 communications interface and is programmable in TinyBASIC or Savvy. It was first released in 1982. Its inputs include eight bumper panels, a photodiode and a sonic transducer. The robot learns from experience.

RB Robot Corp was founded by Joe Bosworth  (pictured above) in 1982.

Video via The Old Robots.

Con Brown (pictured above) purchased the assets in 1985 from the bank.  He changed the name to General Robotics and enjoyed the fruits of his labor for 20 years.
John Boisvert purchased the remaining inventory and assets from Con Brown [Constant Brown] in 2005.

The RB5X robot has to be considered one of the most durable and longest lasting of all Personal and Educational Robots emanating from the 1980's.

Below images from RB Robotics.


Here we have a picture of the first production Prototype for RB5X.  There were 3 made.


This is the second version made.  These were produced in early 1983.


The  third version came along later in 1983. It featured a redesigned LED board, a different dome and a few refinements to the rest of the boards.  Also added at this time was the Voice/Sound board.


RB5X, a personal robot, standing next to the "charger /nest." When the robot finds the nest, the two metal contacts on the front make contact with the metal strips of the curved surface of the charger and recharge the robot's batteries.

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A vacuum attachment was produced in 1983 and shown off at the German version of CES.  But due to poor run times and navigation problems none went to production. 


This all led to the final product.





Richard J. Nelson of the RB Robot Company sends a model 5X through its paces at the annual Atlanta Computer Show in Atlanta on Dec. 8, 1983 by having it offer a cup of coffee to viewers. (AP Photo/Joe Holloway Jr.).




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RB the robot
The home robot field attracts its share of entrepreneurs. One such individual is Joseph Bosworth, founder of the RB Robot Corp. Bosworth, a former consultant for the Solar Energy Research Institute, had a background in computers but, he says, "I didn't want to get into the same things that everybody else was doing. So I was looking for the next frontier." It didn't take much looking, he says, to see that home robots could be to robotics what the Apple II personal computer was to computers.
The Golden, Colorado, company's first attempt at an experimentor's home robot (they anticipate introducing a pure consumer version later this year) is the RB5X. The 2-ft robot sells for $1,195 for a basic model with additional memory, sonar sensor, and pulsating light options available for $295.
Weighing 10 lb, the unit is equipped with tactile sensors about its body, allowing it to detect and respond to objects in its path. Its basic motivation is to keep moving. When its tactile sensors touch an object in its path for the first time, it will choose from a table of random responses. It will either turn left, right, back up, go forward, or stop for a short time. Successful responses are stored. As the robot's experience grows, it develops rankings or levels of confidence in each of the possible responses. Eventually, it builds up a range of appropriate learned responses to all the objects it may encounter in a room. The unit can be programmed from an external personal computer through its RS-232 interface. It can also charge its four C and D-cell power supply automatically, seeking out and attaching itself to its charger, then uncoupling and resuming its activities.

Source: The Personal Robot Book, Texe Marrs, 1985.

In September, 1982, the RB Robot Corporation of Golden, Colorado announced the introduction of the lovable and functional RB5X, advertised as the "Intelligent Robot." This momentous event was noteworthy because RB5X was the world's first mass-produced personal robot. Since then, the tiny, 23-inch-tall robot has proven to be one of the most reliable and well-made machines on the market. As a result of this reliability, RB Robot Corporation has sold thousands of RB5Xs to customers in the United States. Distributors in Germany, Japan, and the Far East have also sold many units in their home countries. (In West Germany, RB5X is modified slightly and has been redesignated as "Toby.")

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RB5X resembles a high-tech garbage can, with his cylindrical body and a clear plastic domed top. As he scoots along, propelled by two motor wheel assemblies, four randomly flashing LEDs add a touch of brilliance.
RB5X has an optional arm and hand, or gripper, which he cleverly conceals in his body. Like HERO I, RB5X isn't much in the muscles and brawn department. A little less than 1 pound—maybe a can of Coke, your slippers, or the morning paper—is about all the small fellow can lift. The arm has five axes of movement.
A nice feature of the robot is his built-in sonar and bumper switches that help him find his way around a room or area by trial and error. As RB5X moves to and fro groping his way, his memory records the best—that is, the correct—path.
RB5X is a user-friendly robot that has impressed many observers, including robotics and computer experts. The little robot was a big hit at the 1984 Winter Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. At that show, the RB Robot people presented a most unusual display. The centerpiece of the display was a "sculpture" of six, multilevel pedestals, each presenting a robot performing a different task. One pedestal featured an RB5X singing, Daisy, the song made famous by HAL, the computer in the film 1001: A Space Odyssey. Another pedestal held an RB5X that greeted show visitors with a tip of its hat. Another RB5X entertained with the robot version of a carnival barker ("Come one, come all!") In addition, there was a plant-watering robot, and two RB5Xs who passed a boquet of flowers back and forth.
Visitors to the RB Robot booth were able to gain hands-on experience with the RB5X robotic arm and with a software module called "Pattern Programmer" that allows users to program the RB5X to move in any pattern they design by pressing its bumpers. Visitors also saw an RB5X equipped with heat sensors and a fire extinguisher that will soon enable it to detect a flame, seek it out, and douse it with Halon.
About RB5X
RB5X comes with his own programmable microprocessor and also has an RS-232C interface to permit link-up with a personal computer for added memory. Because the robot is gaining popularity and becoming a mobile fixture in more households, independent software firms are bringing on-the-shelf software packages to the market which continue to make the robot more useful and fun. In addition, the company that makes RB5X offers a number of software packages and useful add-ons, including voice synthesis and voice recognition.
Looking through RB5X's clear head, you can see the slot for his National Semiconductor on-board microprocessor, INS 8073. On-board capacity is 8K and can be boosted to 16K. There are also five other slots: one to hold extended memory and four additional slots to permit the connection of other boards.
With the robot you get software demonstration programs on disk, which enable you to give the robot a good workout and acquaint you with RB5X's overall capabilities.
Among the optional items offered is a Robot Control Language (RCL)TM package that uses SavvyTM, a system that lets you program RB5X with common English words and phrases. RCL is available for Apple II and lIe computers. Contact RB Robot Corporation for availability on other personal computers as well.
The voice synthesis and recognition features allow interactive conversation between a person and the robot. Using the 64 phonemes standard on a speech synthesis microchip, the user can create a varied vocabulary in any language. Also, you can command the robot to take actions and hear RB5X respond by voice. New communications packages offered by independent firms, such as Arctec, go one step further, permitting RB5X to communicate with other robots, including the HERO models.
Joe Bosworth, president of RB Robot Corporation, feels his robot is one of the most useful on the market, recommending it for home or school use, for play and education, and for experimentation. He says that one way to view the robot at this stage is to "think of it as an infant." Like a human baby, remarks Bosworth, a baby robot "evolves and changes as it gains more experience and knowledge." RB5X is growing, adds Bosworth, is becoming an adolescent, and within the next few years, may become a full-fledged adult. All of this is to say that RB5X is getting more sophisticated and improved with the passage of time.

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Improvements to Come
Planned improvements to RB5X include several attachments, including a fire detector/extinguisher and a vacuum cleaner. The company has built successful prototypes of each of these devices. The fire detector/extinguisher has a "nose" that smells smoke. Sensing a fire, it then targets the location and puts the fire out with a fire extinguisher it handily carries on-board for just such a dangerous occasion.
The RB5X vacuum attachment includes programming that will allow the owner to preprogram the robot with a knowledge of the room or rooms that need vacuuming. Then after the master of the house has left for work, the robot turns on automatically and proceeds to complete his appointed cleaning chore. This attachment is to have its own motor and batteries. Its replacement bags are standard so they can be purchased at the neighborhood supermarket or variety store.
Two other useful add-on items to come are a communications software package to allow RB5X to "talk" to a remote computer, or even another robot, and a trailer that can be hooked up to the robot. With the wheeled trailer, RB5X can pick up and deliver mail, haul small loads (such as laundry), and perhaps, take the children on a joy ride. Another add-on item available soon is a new programming package for the Commodore 64 computer that features direct, text-to-speech conversion and EPROM programming capabilities.
RB5X Features and Options
Following are the basic features you will get with your purchase of a RB5X. A description of seven options that are currently available is listed afterwards.
On-Board Microprocessor. Unlike remote-control robots, the RB5X has an INS 8073 microprocessor built in, making it completely programmable and independent. Owners use a computer keyboard and screen to write programs for the robot, and then download them to the RB5X's microprocessor.
Self-Learning Software. The RB5X comes complete with Alpha and Beta levels of self-learning software, which enable the robot to learn from its experiences. Developed by robotics author David Heiserman[1], this software allows RB5X to progress from simple random responses to an ability to generalize about the features of its environment, storing this data in its on-board memory.
Space for Additional Electronics. One of the RB5X's special features is an interior card cage that allows for the addition of up to four circuit cards. This flexible design enables users to enhance their RB5Xs with special hardware and to make each RB5X virtually one-of-a-kind.
Tiny BASIC. The RB5X's "native tongue" is Tiny BASIC, a subset of the BASIC language that is both high-level and easy to use.
Sonar Sensor. The RB5X comes equipped with the Polaroid RangefinderTM sonar sensor, which allows the robot to detect objects in its path as it moves. The sonar detection range can be set from 10 inches to 35 feet from the robot and is programmable.
Tactile Sensors. Eight tactile sensors, or bumpers, ring the skirt of the robot, allowing it to sense when RB5X makes contact with another object. Like its sonar, this feature allows the robot to navigate its way through its environment.
Autonomous Battery Charging. A special circuit in the RB5X enables it to recognize when its battery charge is low and to begin using special software that helps it find its charger. The RB5X uses its photodiode system to locate its battery charger, moves against the charger nest, recharges itself, and then automatically resumes its activities.
Battery Shutdown Circuit. RB5X comes with a special circuit that shuts the robot down if its batteries drain close to the point where they cannot be recharged. The robot cannot be switched on again until it has been recharged. A charge indicator on the interface panel shows the battery charge level.
Software Module Socket and Switch. RB5X's interface panel contains a socket for preprogrammed software modules. A switch allows owners to set the robot for modules of either 2K or 4K.
Utility Software Module. A standard feature of RB5X is a 2K utility software module that contains a self-diagnostic routine (which automatically checks the robot's batteries and motors), as well as several of the robot's standard software routines.
Dual RS-232 Interfaces. RB5X has two RS-232 ports for handling communications with computers and with other, future options for the robot.
Options Cutouts. RB5X's upper body contains a series of cutouts, covered by removable plastic caps, that accommodate hardware attachments.
Programmable Lights and Horn. RB5X's pulsating lights not only enhance the appearance of the robot, but can be programmed to correspond to whatever mechanical or electronic events the user designates. This feature, along with RB5X's standard horn, can alert the owner to special circumstances or can be used simply for extra interest.
Extended Memory. The RB5X extended memory option is a circuit board that plugs into the interior card cage, adding 16K of RAM to the robot's standard 8K.
The RB Arm. A robotic arm, which extends from a resting position completely inside the robot's body, turns the RB5X into a messenger able to carry objects weighing up to 16 ounces. The arm can be maneuvered under direct program guidance, using a controller to manually guide it, or using a controller and an arm training software module.
Voice/Sound Synthesis. The RB5X voice/sound synthesis option enables owners to program their robots to speak and to make a variety of sounds. This package contains a speaker and a printed circuit board with pitch and volume control.
Voice Recognition. For owners of Apple II+ computers, there is a voice recognition option available that enables the RB5X to respond to spoken commands through the Apple.
Software Modules. Owners may either program RB5X using a computer, or they may purchase preprogrammed software modules. These modules enable RB5X to do specific tasks as soon as the user switches the robot on.
Robot Control Language with Savvy (RCL)[2]. Robot Control Language with Savvy (RCL, for short) is a software development language that enables RB5X users to program their robots using common English words and phrases. Currently available for use in conjunction with Apple II+ and Apple Ile computers, RCL will soon be available for the IBM PC.
Power Pack. This option allows an owner to extend RB5X's charge life and, thus, the run time of the robot. A 10-amp hour battery that attaches to the robot's existing battery, the Power Pack, can keep the base RB5X running for up to 10 hours or the RB arm alone for up to 2 hours.
The Optional Software Packages
To give you an idea of the educational uses RB5X can facilitate and the fun the owner can have, it is necessary to take a look at a few of the optional software packages available from the RB Robot Corporation. So, let's briefly cover some of these packages, the first being the "RB5X Terrapin Logo Translator," a software system that allows RB5X to execute turtle graphics procedures, making the robot an education tool for demonstrating the physical manifestations of Logo programming. Suggested retail is $34.95.
"Bumper Music" is a limited but interesting program that lets you play musical notes by pressing the bumpers which ring the robot's outer shell. Each of the eight bumpers plays a different note, and you can create music by working the bumpers in different combinations.
Two RB5X software modules, "Hop to It!" and "Math Whiz," are application programs on erasable, programmable read-only memory (EPROM) chips that plug into a socket on the robot's interface panel.
"Hop to It!" is an engaging, educational game that allows RB5X to use its sonar sensor to challenge players to accurately judge distances in feet and inches. RB5X issues a verbal challenge, records and calculates players' scores, and announces the winner. Suggested retail is $24.95.
"Math Whiz" is a math quiz in a game format that may be played by up to eight people at one time. RB5X uses its random number generator to compose a math problem involving elementary addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division for each player in turn. The robot checks players' answers for errors, corrects or congratulates, and calculates players' scores. This program's lights, sounds, and robot motions motivate children to learn important math facts with RB5X. Suggested retail is $24.95.
"Intruder Alarm/Daisy Daisy" is a package for the RB5X equipped with optional voice/sound synthesis capability. With the Intruder Alarm, a Polaroid sonar sensing device picks up movement within its range, and the robot then sounds the alarm. Daisy Daisy is a bit more joyful, allowing RB5X to sing the song made famous in the movie, 2001: A Space Odyssey.
RB Robot Price List

Table 2-3 is RB5X robot price list effective August 1, 1984.
RB's Robot Appreciation Kit
If you're new to personal robotics and you want to know more about the personal robot field, RB has a kit that may be just the thing. Actually, the kit, called the Robot Appreciation Kit, is an item that even experienced robot hobbyists will find interesting. It's designed to answer your questions about home robots in general and RB5X in particular.
Priced at $19.95 and available from local RB5X retailers or direct from RB Robot, the Robot Appreciation Kit contains an overview of the field of personal robots; article reprints from current periodicals; product literature on the RB5X; a copy of the July, 1983 issue of RB Forum, which discusses Robot Control Language with Savvy; a questionnaire and free RB Forum subscription offer; two RB5X bumper stickers; an RB5X poster; a copy of Isaac Asimov's book, Eight Stories from the Rest of the Robots; and a copy of the RB5X Reference Manual, less the technical appendices. RB Robots refunds the price of the kit to persons who subsequently purchased the RB5X robot.
The Future
RB Robot Corporation merged in October, 1984, with Actronix Corporation, a Dallas, Texas robotics development firm. Reportedly, Actronix has some top-notch management and research and development personnel who will lend their expertise to building the new, combined company into a big success. At the time of the merger, Actronix had already developed prototypes of two personal robots—the Actron Bear, an upright device with a 300-pound lifting capacity, and the Actron Wolf, a low-profile, mobile security robot. It is possible that one or both of these robots will be available soon. In any case, the research and development knowledge and experience acquired in their development may be transferred to future RB5X models and thus mean enhanced technological advancement.
How to Buy the RB5X
A growing number of dealers in the United States and Canada are stocking and selling the RB5X and accessories. Also, RB5X is available direct from the manufacturer. For the name of the RB5X dealer nearest you, to order RB5X, or for further information, write or call RB Robot Corporation.



[1]. David Hieserman had already built "Buster" the robot, but was developing "Rodney" the "Artificial Intelligence" robot at the time. RB5X software utilized "Rodney" technology.

The robot comes with what the company calls Alpha and Beta level self-learning software. This "Artificial Intelligence" software, developed by David Heiserman (well known to anyone interested in robotics) allows your RB5X robot to learn from it's experiences.

Self-Learning Software / Artifical Intelligence
The RB5X comes complete with "Alpha" and "Beta" levels of self-learning software, which which empowered the robot to absorb and employ information from its surroundings. Developed by leading robotics author David Heiserman, this software allows RB5X to progress from simple random responses to an ability to generalize about the features of its environment, storing this data in its on-board memory.
Self-Learning: This small, first step toward true "intelligence" enables the robot to learn from its own mistakes. For example, you could set the RB5X down in a room and let it roam about randomly. It will probably run into walls several times, perhaps a desk, and maybe even a person. As it rolls around the room, it will "learn" in its own computer-like fashion where the obstacles are in a room, thus avoiding them in the future. The self-learning software are on "Alpha" and "Beta" levels, which were developed by the robotics author David Heiserman for the purpose of giving robots a simple way to "learn" from their experiences, somewhat like humans do.

[2] Prendergast, Dan; Slade, Bill; Winkless, Nelson (January 1984). "A General-Purpose Robot Control Language". BYTE. p. 122..

Dan Prendergast is vice-president of research and development at RB Robot Corporation, Bill Slade is operating-systems manager at Excalibur Technologies Corporation, and Nelson Winkless is president of ABQ Communications Corporation (Box 1432, Con-ales, NM 87048) and coauthor of 'Robots on Your Doorstep.

The Savvy Programming Language was published by Excalibur Technologies Corporation, FOB 26448, Albuquerque.





See other early Humanoid Robots here.

1987 – Humanoid robot – Alexander Mészáros (Hungarian)


Humanoid robot – Source: here. (English via Google translate – some words not translated)

Alexander Mészáros – a retired college professor, expert

In past times, it lost in the attempt, when a man tried to prepare themselves for similar creature. Õsember've probably wanted to take part in the creation of a "mûember 'delight. The most ancient religions, priests, wizards also created mechanically propelled humanoid machines to impress the faithful.

You can not forget the Hungarian Kempelen kísérleteirõl, the most successful creation of the chess-playing automaton, which is considered the most successful contemporary solution counts. In 1769 he created a talking handset Kempelen a Viennese court's request. I wonder what would have been able to form Kempelen today, if he were alive?

The development of humanoid robots are the real big boost in computing was when the robot body movement into or out of the built-in PC, and modern electronic elements not only control, but could also be programmed. In the sixties, considerable research has been the development of more intelligent humanoid robots.

The author in 1987, thought to build their own purposes, humanoid personal robot, which is less visible and gépszerûnek must also imitate human movements need to know.


Figure 1 shows the appearance of the robot shown in the drawing. 1 m. tall, all-metal robot built three-wheel moving. Rear wiper motors drive wheels are carried back and forth from one side and stopping the engine from side to side is capable of turning. The sole foot protruding partially seated in the batteries. The bellies of the relatively large size provides plenty of space for the electronics. The chest located beneath the display provides computer monitor's small, but switched to TV reception as well. The middle ground is a programmable four-channel control unit, which controls the movements of the head.

The robot's neck pleated stainless steel cylinder that enables movement in all directions to the head, also hides the numerous wires and actuator mechanics. The head is also made of stainless sheet steel. I tried to approach the design of the human head artistically, so I kept the third exports worth to keep. Accompanying the movement of the mouthpiece speech is achieved. The microphone on the outer ear in recording the conversations serve as a digital voice recorder.

The robotic arms can be moved. The electromechanical servo-system right hand. The left arm raising movement muscle wire carries. Clearly visible is the difference in terms of space and súlykihasználás. Five fingers of the hand has been established after a long period of experimentation, which also will move muscle wire. The robot's shoulder with a miniature camera is placed in front of them about that displays recorded images on the Display.

The robot's movements and many functions can be controlled with several different ways. The multi-channel remote control CL6 M Graupner 40 MHz can be up to about l00m control. A robot built-in light and hangérzékelõkkel and using computer programming and more sophisticated detection is possible. The 6-watt Audio Boost sound enough strength to return to the digital recorder or walkman kazettájáról sound information when the robot moves his mouth during speech.


Figure 2. Alexander Mészáros with his Humanoid robot .

Finally, their studies and experience gained in building the robot and the world of research results still show the words of Sophocles:

Many of you, our wonderful,
But the man is not
Nothing more beautiful.

[Original Hungarian]

Emberszabású robot

Mészáros Sándor
nyugalmazott fõiskolai tanár, szakértõ

A régmúlt idõk homályába vész az a próbálkozás, midõn az ember magához hasonló lényt próbált készíteni. Már talán az õsember is vágyott részt venni a "mûember" megteremtésének örömében. A legõsibb vallások papjai, varázslói is alkottak mechanikusan mozgatott emberszabású gépeket a híveik elkápráztatására.

Nem lehet megfeledkezni a magyar Kempelen Farkas kísérleteirõl, legsikeresebb alkotásáról a sakkozó automatáról, amely még ma is a legsikeresebb korabeli megoldásnak számít. 1769-ben egy beszélõ masinát is alkotott Kempelen a Bécsi Udvar kívánságára. Vajon mit volna képes alkotni ma Kempelen, ha élne?

Az emberszabású robotok fejlõdéséhez az igazi nagy lendületet a számítástechnika hozta, amikor a robotszervek mozgatását a beépített vagy kívülre helyezett számítógéppel, s a korszerû elektronikai elemekkel nemcsak vezérelni, hanem programozni is lehetett. A hatvanas években már jelentõs kutatás folyt minél intelligensebb emberszabású robotok fejlesztésére.

A szerzõ 1987-ben gondolt arra, hogy megépíti saját célú, emberszabású személyi robotját, amelynek kevéssé kell gépszerûnek látszania és az emberi mozgásokat is utánoznia kell tudni.

Az 1. ábrán a robot külalak rajzát láthatjuk. Az 1 m. magas, teljesen fémépítésû robot három keréken mozog. Hátsó meghajtott kerekeit ablaktörlõ-motorok hajtják elõre-hátra, és az egyik oldali motor leállításával jobbra-balra is fordulóképes. A talpból kinyúló lábrészben foglalnak helyet az akkumulátorok. A hasrész a viszonylag nagy méretével bõséges teret biztosít az elektronika részére. A mellrészen elhelyezett display szolgál az alatta lévõ kis méretû computer monitorának, de átkapcsolható TV-vételre is. A has közepén egy 4 csatornás programozható vezérlõegység van, amely a fej mozgásait vezérli.

A robot nyaka rozsdamentes harmonika henger, amely a fej részére minden irányú mozgást lehetõvé tesz, egyben elrejti a számos vezetéket és fejmozgató mechanikát. A fej ugyancsak rozsdamentes acéllemezbõl készült. Kialakításánál igyekeztem az emberi fejet mûvészien megközelíteni, ezért a harmadik kivitelt tartottam érdemesnek megtartani. A szájrész beszédet kísérõ mozgását is sikerült megvalósítani. A fülekben lévõ mikrofonok a külsõ beszédek rögzítésére szolgálnak digitális hangrögzítõkön.

1. ábra

A robot karjai mozgathatók. A jobb kéz elektromechanikus szervórendszerû. A bal kar emelését, mozgatását izomhuzal végzi. Jól látható a különbség hely-és súlykihasználás szempontjából. A kézfejen öt ujjat sikerült hosszú kísérletezés után kialakítani, amelyeket ugyancsak izomhuzal fog mozgatni. A robot vállán egy miniatûr kamera van elhelyezve, amely az elõtte állókról felvett képet a displayen jeleníti meg.

A robot mozgását és számos funkcióját többféleképen lehet vezérelni. A Graupner M Cl6 sokcsatornás távirányítóval 40 MHz-en lehet akár l00m-rõl irányítani. A robotba beépített fény- és hangérzékelõkkel és a computerrel bonyolultabb programozás és érzékelés is lehetséges. A 6 W-os hangerõsítõ elegendõ hangerõvel adja vissza a digitális hangrögzítõ vagy a sétálómagnó kazettájáról a hanginformációt, amikor a robot szája is mozog a beszéd alatt.

2. ábra

Végezetül saját tanulmányom és a robotépítésben szerzett tapasztalatom, valamint a világ kutatóinak eredményei bizonyítják még mindig Szophoklész szavait:

Sok van, mi csodálatos,
De az embernél nincs
Semmi csodálatosabb.

See other early Humanoid Robots here.

1982 – “A2W2” the Andy Warhol Robot – Lewis Allen / Alvaro Villa (American/Columbian)


1982 – "A2W2" the Andy Warhol Robot.









"I want to be a machine, and I feel that whatever I do and do machine-like is what I want to do. I think everybody should be a machine."

Andy Warhol, Nov 1963.



Source: Times Daily, Oct 30, 1982.


Alvaro Villa with some of his animatronic figures.

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Image source: Life Magazine, Dec, 1984. Photography by Eric Wexler.


Image source: TIME Nov. 15, 1982. Photography by Eric Wexler.




Text Source: Robots, machines in man's image, – Page 117, Isaac Asimov, Karen A. Frenkel – 1985

…There are animated figures in Disneyland and Epcot Center. Robots promote products at trade shows. Hollywood has created robot film characters, and an Andy Warhol robot will soon make its Broadway debut. There is a kind of "information ricochet" (to use Tom Wolfe's phrase) among developers of these robotlike amusements, who become inspired by one another's creations.
One day while walking through New York's Pennsylvania Station, Broadway producer Lewis Allen happened upon a promotional robot for Columbia Picture's film The Greatest. The robot was a Muhammad Ali look-alike that so fascinated Allen that he imagined it could come to life. Allen had also been reading two books by pop artist Andy Warhol, Andy Warhol's Exposures and The Philosophy of Andy Warhol, and was searching for a way to adapt them for theatrical production.
Allen perceived Warhol as trying to reduce himself to a camera and a tape recorder. Since Warhol has often said that his ambition in life is to become a machine, Allen decided to build a robot in Warhol's image. He approached Walt Disney Productions, but they were gearing up for Epcot Center and were themselves looking for technicians. Allen also approached George Lucas, but the Star Wars producer was interested in robots for film only. Finally, Allen hired computer consultant Gerald Feil and Alvaro Villa, a one-time Disney engineer, to build the robot. Both had experience in special effects and animation design films and live tours of animated figures. Work on the robot's hardware began in Villa's company, AVG Productions – Valencia, California, in 1981, while Robert Shapiro, president of Meta Information Applications in New York City began working on the software. The screenplay was written by playwright-producer Peter Sellers, who worked on Allen's most recent Broadway hit, My One and Only.
The Warhol mechanical clone will star in a show called  Andy Warhol's Overexposed: A No Man Show that will on Broadway in September 1985. The robot will have fifty-four movements, ranging from facial expressions to folding its arms. These will be synchronized with recordings of Warhol's voice. All of this will be controlled by a specially built computer, "because nobody builds one for animated figures," says Villa.
The robot will be seated on its bed in Warhol's rom, surrounded by its dog, a telephone, and two television sets. It will interact with these as well as with the audience. When a member of the audience asks a question, the robot will have five preprogrammed answers to choose from.
Besides being entertaining, Allen says, the show may indicate that art and technology are not necessarily pitted against each other. Other questions Sellers says it may raise are: What is the difference between a robot and a human being? What happens when a human being becomes a robot? What happens when a robot tries to become a human being?

1982 – "A2W2" the Andy Warhol Robot – Lewis Allen/Alvaro Villa.

The Automated Andy Warhol Is Reprogrammed



As the Museum of Contemporary Art primps this month for the only American exhibition of the Andy Warhol retrospective, another Warhol sits on the sidelines, a twin in Chatsworth ready to leave home as soon as his programming is complete.

The resemblance is uncanny: the hair identically chopped, the mole precisely placed and the skin equally pasty, even if it is silicone. Below the neckline, however, the celebrity likeness dissolves into a tangle of hydraulic tubing, electronic actuators and aluminum bones.

Fabricated in 1982 for a production that never left the ground, this robotic Andy Warhol has lingered for 20 years at AVG, a firm that designs and fabricates mechanical characters for movies, theme parks and exhibitions. A deal was struck with a private collector last month, and the robot is being prepped for the handoff. Alvaro Villa, who worked for Disney Imagineering and founded AVG in 1978, said he will miss his animatronic Andy, adding, "It's become a sort of icon for the company."

Villa says the Andy Warhol Museum in the artist's hometown of Pittsburgh had expressed interest in acquiring the robot but made no counteroffer when a private collector approached Villa unexpectedly. Preferring not to give the amount of the sale, Villa says the buyer disclosed little.

"He was very mysterious," Villa says. "I honestly can't even tell you his nationality because another person came to negotiate for him."

Museum director Thomas Sokolowski admits to a fascination with the robot but says he is not convinced it would have been a good investment. "It could distract from the experience of the paintings rather than enhance it. Particularly for Americans today, a Madame Tussaud's or robotic light show is far more exotic than any painting."

The mechanical figure was created as the star of a touring multimedia stage production to be co-produced by Warhol and Broadway impresario Lewis Allen. Tentatively titled "Andy Warhol's Overexposed: A No-Man Show," the automated theatrical curiosity was to have cost an estimated $1.25 million, but funds never materialized. Sokolowski says the production was to have depicted the artist's daily routine of sitting in bed while dictating his diaries over the phone.

Villa never saw a script and never got as far as programming the lip-sync, but other functions are complete, including 54 movements ranging from shrugging shoulders to a bobbing Adam's apple. He also recalls preliminary discussions about making robotic dachshunds to stand in for Warhol's pets, Amos and Archie.

The yearlong process of creating the $400,000 robot-actor began with the actor's visit, when his voice was recorded, his motion videotaped and his body photographed from hundreds of angles. John Davis, who then headed the company's sculpture department, recalls Warhol enduring measurements with calipers and sitting for photographs with stickers attached to the pivot point of his jaw. "He was very patient and quiet," he says, "and I think I'd have to call him shy." Castings were taken from Warhol's hands to duplicate detail down to the fingerprints.

Using the photographic reference, Davis sculpted a head around custom eyeballs and off-the-shelf teeth from a dental supplier. From this, he created molds and cast rubber skins as well as a fiberglass skull that would support the bonier parts of the face. A body with removable panels was cast in plastic, and this hollow shell then went to the AVG mechanics responsible for devising a motorized musculature. The completed figure was then airbrushed, clothed and topped with a Warhol-esque wig.

So why didn't the robot see its 15 minutes of fame?

Sokolowski says that investors could not be convinced that all technical issues had been resolved. "Could the show pay for touring costs? Would the robot break down? Would you have to pay 40 technicians to come along?" These, according to Sokolowski, were real concerns, along with the fear that the robot's technological sophistication would be outdated before the curtain ever rose.

Robot's Monologue Was Never Created

The no-man show, Sokolowski says, was the brainchild of director Peter Sellars, who intended to write a script based on the artist's diaries and two of his books, "The Philosophy of Andy Warhol" and "Exposures." But Warhol never recorded a monologue and, after his death in 1987, plans to have an actor read the lines or to edit something from existing recordings by Warhol didn't materialize.

The notion of casting a robot to play the artist may have been sparked by Warhol, who declared in the 1960s that he would like to be a robot or machine. "In many ways, it wasn't that great a stretch. Just look at tapes of him being measured for the project," Sokolowski says. "His movements are very wooden, almost robotic."

As the robot was being built, Warhol was (in his own way) enthusiastic, expressing the hope that his mechanical counterpart could take over the burden of public appearances. The idea may have been more than a joke to Warhol, who in 1967 hired his Factory crony Alan Midgette, to impersonate him for a college lecture tour.

"He thought as long as someone looked like Warhol and sounded like Warhol, people didn't really care since they were having the Warhol experience," Sokolowski says, noting that the artist's robot remark could also be understood in terms of social programming.

"Look at it as following all the patterns that our society made for us: buying the right perfume or clothes to fit a particular role." This sort of robotic obedience, he says, was hardly anathema to Warhol. "He came from the wrong side of the tracks, and he himself had to learn how to talk hip, be cool, fit in. He embraced that process."

The fact that Warhol dubbed his studio the Factory, Sokolowski says, also alludes to the artist's love of predictable mechanized process. Repetitive behavior may, in fact, have been symptomatic of his psychology.

"This is not definitive, but we think he suffered from something called Asperger Syndrome, a very, very mild form of autism. So the fact that Warhol would do these repetitive things, like only eat one food for lunch every day, wear exactly the same kind of underwear for 30 years or fiddle with a rosary in his pocket, is also significant in that sense."

As Warhol's mechanized double says goodbye to theatrical aspirations, Villa is parting not only with a company icon, but also with a useful model. After the original rubber skin deteriorated and peeled away around the time of the artist's death, the exposed high-tech skeleton went to work on TV, appearing as a background extra in an episode of Warner Bros. "Lois and Clark" and in the Discovery Channel documentary "Robots Rising."

But its role as far as AVG is concerned is larger than that. Villa explains by conducting a tour of the company's machine shop. Next to a rack of bins, he points out something that looks like a robotic anatomy chart, each bone and muscle coded with a number corresponding to a particular bin.

"We have a sort of standard design for human figures," he says, pulling out a box that seems to be filled with metallic finger bones. "Andy was the first sophisticated human figure built by the company," he says. "We refined his design over the years, but many of the parts still come from him."

AVG has created roughly 1,000 robots since 1978–dragons, singing flowers, even industrial workers to sew for Singer–and among them are many human-like descendants of Warhol, including an Albert Einstein, a Wizard of Oz, a Sinbad and even a replica of the ghoulish host of "Tales From the Crypt." So even if the animatronic Andy is retiring to private life, little bits of Warhol will continue to be dispersed around the globe, in AVG robots from Las Vegas to Tokyo to Seoul.

A Popular Mechanics Special Section
Will the real Andy Warhol please stand up and say something?
It's all there, The affectless gaze.
The diffracted grace … the bored languor, the wasted pallor … the chic freakiness … the chalky, puckish mask, the slightly Slavic look, The shaggy, silver-white hair, It's all there. Nothing is missing. I'm everything my scrapbook says I am."
The words are Andy Warhol's, and he's describing himself, But if all goes as planned, he could also be talking about A2W2, the Andy Warhol robot so lifelike—at least so Warhol-like—you'll have trouble telling the two apart,
The android Warhol, to be built at an estimated cost of $400,000, will have a role in life as soon as it's born: It will star in a one-robot show, perhaps 45 minutes long. Producer Lewis Allen, who was one of the producers of Annie and My One and Only, hopes to open on Broadway this fall.
Explains Allen, "The robot will be seated in Andy's room, with the telephone and a couple of television sets behind him, and he'll simply talk. Then there'll be a section where the audience asks him questions, and he can reply. The last part will be a kind of probing of himself as a person. But, of course, it will be a robot doing it."
The robot will operate only in a seated position, but according to Allen it will be able to do everything a seated human can do: "The mouth will move, the eyelids will open and close. And it will be synchronized and move as an organic unit, so that when it moves an arm forward, the rest of the body will compensate. Plus there will be a kind of sensory feedback: If it's going to pick up a phone or a glass, it will have the sense to apply the right kind of pressure to lift without crushing. It will move the way Andy moves and talk in his voice. It will even stutter,"
Allen is A2W2's godfather; its technological parents are several. The robot is being constructed by AVG Productions, of Valencia, California, whose president, Alvaro Villa, helped create many of the animated figures in Disneyland. Villa had Warhol come to his office to be photographed and measured in detail. "Then we made a sculpture of him out of clay and a fiberglass mold from the sculpture," Villa explains. "We used the mold to make clear plastic shells for the chest and limbs, including every last detail. We even included details of his fingerprints, and we're making dentures to match his teeth."
The robot's body will be made of clear plastic so that the mechanisms inside remain visible (when not covered with clothes). But the face and hands will be covered with a flexible, skinlike material.
Disneyland's robots work on hydraulics (moving because of internal pressure from a liquid); A2W2 will work on pneumatics (pressure from a gas). Says Villa, "Pneumatic machinery is much more complex, but it breaks down much less often." Inside the ersatz Warhol, valves at the base of a pneumatic cylinder will be connected to mechanical activators that will manipulate A2W2's face and limbs. The robot's actions will be controlled by microprocessors.
The computerized program to direct the microprocessors is being designed by Robert Shapiro, once a senior mathematician-programmer for IBM, now head of a consulting business, Meta Information Applications, of New York City. "The robot's speech will be synchronized perfectly to its lip movements," says Shapiro. "The speech is completely digitalized and controlled by the computer. This means that it's possible for the robot to choose different things to say under different circumstances. It's like a word processor, where you can move a sentence around. If you move a sentence around in our system, the system understands the motions and utterances that are connected with that sentence—it knows what Andy sounds and looks like saying those words."
The system will only be able to move sentences, however, not single words or syllables. This will avoid the disjointed, inhuman sound of most synthesized speech. Warhol will record the voice himself. Says the artist, "I was hoping they'd use someone else's voice. I don't like my voice, but I guess I'll have to talk for the recording."
Producer Allen got the idea for A2W2 from Warhol's books: "Andy has always said, 'I'd always wanted to be a machine,' " he explains. "He carries a camera and a tape recorder around with him all the time, and he tries to remove himself more and more as a person, I think, in a funny way, he has anticipated the computerization and robotization that's been happening in our society. So I thought, why not use a robot of Andy to dramatize his philosophy? It's an implicit comment on what's happening in the world."
Says Warhol, "I think if the robot goes on talk shows for me, it'd be great."



Andy Warhol Robot

The Andy Warhol robot is on display at the Tate Museum in Liverpool through May 2004 as part of the Mike Kelley: The Uncanny exhibition.

The robot was designed by Alvaro Villa shortly before Warhol's death for use in a stage show titled Andy Warhol: A No Man Show based on Warhol's books, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again) and Exposures. The production was to be produced for Broadway by Lewis Allen of Annie fame, but the project was cancelled after Warhol's death. (Mr. Allen passed away in December of last year).

Bob Colacello: "… there was a big project that Fred [Hughes] killed after Andy died. Lewis Allen, who was the producer of Annie and of Tru, the Truman Capote one-man show, had taken an option on the Philosophy of Andy Warhol and Exposures and had this wonderful idea to make the two books into something called Andy Warhol: A No Man Show. It was going to be a robot of Andy sitting on stage just gossiping and philosophizing based on the text of those two books. Peter Sellars was going to direct it. But the technology kept moving so quickly that every time Lew thought he had a robot, they'd find they could make an even more advanced robot, which would have eleven hand movements instead of three hand movements. And so he'd actually invest more money to get a better robot and then that would put the whole project back a year or two.

Andy loved this idea; he loved the fact that there was going to be this Andy Warhol robot that he could send on lecture tours. It could do talk shows for him. The idea was that the show, if it was successful in New York, could then also simultaneously be running in London, Los Angeles, Tokyo with cloned robots. And people would actually be able to ask questions of the robot, which would be programmed with a variety of answers. The whole thing was so Warholian and so perfect.

But when Andy died, Fred refused to renew the option. I owned fifty percent of Philosophy and Exposures, and Andy owned fifty percent after he died. In any case, the deal was killed. I think that Fred didn't want this Warhol robot haunting his existence. It's a shame. It really would have been the greatest thing that could have happened for Andy. It would have almost been like coming back from the dead. And he really loved the project. He sat for hours at some high-tech place in the San Fernando Valley where thy made a mold of his face and his hands… there's a whole photo session of it. (BC)

Source: Angie Waller.





Andy Warhol Robot, 2007
Documentation of the Andy Warhol robot designed by Alvaro Villa. The project was underway shortly before Warhol’s death for use in a stage show titled Andy Warhol: A No Man Show based on Warhol’s books, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again) and Exposures. Production of the robot was cancelled after Warhol’s death. The robot is now twenty years old and its outdated technology puts it between the realms of uncanny and absurd.  Andy Warhol Robot documents Alvaro Villa, the inventor, demonstrating the robot's movement and audio features.  The jerky motion and low fidelity audio make Warhol’s pre-recorded “I don’t know” responses sound something like an animatronic Chucky Cheese character or a séance with the dead.

See the complete list of early Mechanical Men and Robots here.


1903 – La Motogirl – Doris Chertney / Frederic Melville (American)


1903 – La Motogirl – Doris Chertney [Chertsey?] / Frederic Melville.



Image and text source: here.
Belle Epoque Violin Playing Robot, circa 1905

In the French newspaper Le Gaulois, #9558, there is a notice of the appearance, on December 15th, 1903?, at 8:30 PM at the Olympia Theater in Paris, of La Motogirl. Now, we don't know if she was actually a robot who played the violin and dreamed of becoming a real girl, or if she was a real girl who played the violin and had always dreamed of becoming a robot. But, she was certainly billed as a violin playing robot, and in this image, she really does look like one.


The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA), Tuesday 24 November 1903. Text source: here.

A remarkable story is told by Mr. Frederic Melville, the manager for that clever little American lady, Miss Doris Chertsey, alias the "Motogirl." After a long and most successful engagement at the Wintergarten, in Berlin, Miss Doris Chertney heard that her "business" was being done at an other music-hall by a girl from America calling herself "Motomadchen," and as this was a literal translation of the name Miss Chertsey had copyrighted, she took proceedings against the imitator (Mr. Melville being the nominal suing party), and duly appeared at court packed in a box like a doll in a toyshop. When the case was tried, the box, with the lid off the front, was propped up against the judges' bench, and the figure inside it treated as a thing, inanimate.  Presently the court was ordered to be cleared while the judges debated. "Of course the doll can remain," said one of the judges, turning to the usher. And so the Motogirl remained, hearing the decision in her favor some time before, it was publicly announced in court! (Miss Chertsey's mother was a German, and the Motogirl is well acquainted with the language). It was not until the matter had got into the papers that the judges knew that the doll in the box was stuffed with flesh and blood and bones, all in excellent working order, and Mr. Melville says that the success of the deception in the courts has done the "turn" no harm in the music halls. This is quite possible.


Image and text source: here.
La Motogirl
This curious postcard is of 'la motogirl'. She was brought to Australia by Harry Rickards, of the Tivoli Circuit in 1906. Her Manager, Fred Melville, accompanied her.

La Motogirl was taken from her cabinet on stage and left there to dance, sing, play the violin and perform other comedic feats. It was said that she was run by electricity, and sparks flew from her limbs as she performed.

The audience were allowed to look at La Motogirl and encouraged to decide, 'Is she real?"

A young American lady named Doris Chertsey may have also been part of the act.


Text source: New York Clipper, 18 April 1908

La Motogirl Has Trying Experience .
Frederic Melville sends the following letter: During a performance at Bennett's Theatre, Hamilton, Can ., on the afternoon of April 2, while I was carrying the Motogirl under my arm and preparing to run down the flight of stairs into the auditorium, the stairs suddenly went to pieces, precipitating both Doris Chertney (La Motogirl) and myself into the auditorium. "How the lady preserved her equanimity and usual marvelous facial control under the circumstances, was the talk of the audience. I fell undermost, saving the human doll the jar of the orchestra chairs, but I am nursing a badly sprained left thumb, two cuts on the jaw and cheekbone, a lacerated kneecap and a very painful bruise in the region of the heart, which I received from a hard blow from the back of the orchestra chairs. The climax and the act was in no way interfered with, notwithstanding unrehearsed effect, and the audience was loud in praise of the nerve of the doll."


MOTORGIRL Advert. Source: Variety, 1908.

by M. Dinorben Griffith.
from The Strand Magazine Vol 29 (1905), pages 450-5. Source: here.

LET everyone leave the court " was the order of one of the judges of the Kammergericht, or Supreme Court of Berlin.

"You need not remove the doll," said the usher to its owner; "I will prop it up against the rail of the desk here."

The court was cleared and the doors were locked, and facing the five judges, resplendent in their judicial robes-but wigless, and severe of face-stood the doll, the real plaintiff in the case. she was a dainty, lifesize, but petite figure, costumed in the latest Parisian fashion-a real "Bebe Jumeau," with bead-like eyes and absolutely impassive features. She gradually dying soft whirr of machinery within, or without, her provided an out-of-the-way accompaniment to an important legal controversy.

The doll in court was an American, and her right and title had been usurped by a cheap imitation, "Made in Germany." Naturally no self-respecting doll could permit this; hence the case, which had already passed through three courts, where the verdict was given against her. Finally, the onus of decision as to patent between the American and German was left to the High Court.

The doll, impassive as she looked, was not happy, for she had been conveyed in a basket on the top of a cab in pouring rain to the court. She was feeling damp and depressed, and, adding insult to injury, the porters had dumped her upside down and carried her up flights of stairs in the same condition. Her debut ore this occasion was marred, but her manager soothed her feelings, straightened out her rumpled finery, and wound her up. Even then her troubles were not at an end; for two mortal hours she had to listen to the legal controversy of five judges, but their ten astute eyes failed to detect a wink or blink in the bead-like eyes of the lovely waxen plaintiff. Even when the verdict was given in favour of her "home-made" rival and imitator, she was still the doll, with every feature calm and reposeful. What mattered it to her that five hundred pounds had been swallowed up by these actions? Rumour with its thousand tongues only added fresh lustre to her name and wonderful, skill-baffling performance.

In less than a week her triumph was complete, for all Berlin was ringing with the news-that these solemn judges had been hoodwinked by a slim, "cute" little American girl, whose marvellous impersonation of a doll had puzzled half the world. Moreover, she could boast of the fact that she, and she only, had the unique experience of having been closeted with her judges while they were in solemn conclave, hearing and understanding every word they said, for her mother was a native of Berlin, and she herself had been educated at a German college.

To go back to the beginning of things, Miss Doris Chertney, the girl-doll – for she was an ordinary infant and precocious child before she became a doll – was descended from well-to-do parents, smart society people living within a stone's throw of Central Park, New York.

From her earliest girlhood little Doris delighted in amusing and startling her child friends with her marvellous impersonation of mechanical toys. She had phenomenal facial control, and could assume at will the immobility or the peculiarity of movement of an automaton. So realistic were the impersonations that her companions often felt more awed than amused.

After the death of her parents she was adopted by their friends, Mr. and Mrs. Melville, and went to live with them at their home in Havana. While there she made her first appearance in public-an amusing incident which was the result of a wager.

A steam merry-go-round was one of the great amusements in Havana. It had an organ attached, the manipulator being a grotesque automaton nigger boy. It was necessary that he should have a new suit of clothes, which his tailor could not complete for two or three days; so young "Miggs" could not appear in public, and the merry-go-round without him was a failure. Miss Doris volunteered, for a wager, to fill his part at a moment's notice. She was coloured and clothed to resemble "Mr. Miggs", and fastened to the organ, wound up, and for the time being became a black boy. So mechanical and stiff – were her movements that only those "in the know" dreamed that she was not the original figure.

Her marvellous power of self-control and complete absorption of self became the talk of the place, and resulted in another wager- that she should tour the world as a doll, returning to America in three years time with six thousand pounds clear profit.

The idea was at once taken up by her adopted parents, but the scheme wanted careful thinking out on their part and hard work for the embryo doll. she studied her role for ten hours a day for nearly a year. "And now," she says, "I feel my dual personality rather puzzling, for I find it hard to remember when I cease being a girl and become a doll, and vice versa."

Her experiences had been varied, and sometimes alarming, before she made her debut in Europe, and when she toured through America. The make-up was realistic in the extreme; she was a dainty doll, and no one who saw or even closely scrutinized her believed she was anything else.

Known as "The Motogirl," she attracted immense audiences wherever she appeared. Encased in machinery, charged with two hundred and fifty volts of electricity, she is an alarming little lady to meddle with; her copper-soled shoes, and the yards of tubing which she carries about her person, would frighten even a scientist.

Her toilette before a fifteen minutes' performance occupies a little over two hours- as long as that of a debutante preparing to appear at her first Drawing Room. On the stage, her manager winds-or allows anyone else to wind-the clockwork arrangement in her back; and the girl-doll makes spasmodic doll-like movements across the stage, and is finally carried about among the audience, who are allowed to touch and lift her; and who, one and all, agree that it is a wonderfully-constructed automaton. Not even the "Thank you, good-night, ladies and gentlemen" (and pretty smile) with which she finishes her performance alters their opinion. They are firmly convinced it is a phonograph, or something like that, which speaks.

I determined to interview the Motogirl and to stand no nonsense, so I called at the hotel where she was staying in London, and sent up my card. It did not seem to have much effect, for I waited about half an hour, then was shown into a sitting-room, where a tall gentleman met me and asked my business.

"To see the girl-doll, interview and have her photographed for THE STRAND MAGAZINE," I said. " I want to see her whole performance. Is it true that you pack her in a basket?"

"Yes, quite true. I am her manager, and shall be only too happy to show you anything in my power. I am sorry to say, however, that we were obliged to leave the Motogirl's basket in Germany, as it was too cumbersome to carry about. But would this do for a photograph, do you think ? " getting up from a small laundry basket on which he had been sitting.

"Certainly not," I said, indignantly. "Why, you could not put a three-yearold child in that. I want facts, and not fiction, please."

"I think you will find this large enough for her," he replied, and, lifting the lid, out sprang the girl-doll, beaming and smiling, real flesh and blood, but boneless, I am sure. Still almost incredulous, I measured the basket and discovered that it was only twenty-three inches long, by thirteen inches broad and thirteen inches deep. As I looked from the pretty girl to the basket, it seemed impossible for her to have been in it all this time without being suffocated. Still, there she was, and I agreed with Shakespeare (who had, perhaps, known a Motogirl or two) that "there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our philosophy".

Every possible device has been tried to test the phenomenal immobility of the girl-doll, but she is still an enigma. Medical men have held seances over her, pins have been stuck into her, and handkerchiefs flicked in her face without disturbing her wonderful self control.

In New York a gentleman asked if he could put his finger into her eye to make sure it was a doll. " Certainly," said her manager. "But as each eye is very delicately made and cost me twenty – five dollars (five pounds), I shall require the deposit of that sum before you make the experiment." So the situation was saved, for the gentleman, either convinced or not willing to deposit that amount, went quietly back to his seat.

While dining at a restaurant in Boston with her adopted parents a party of six came up to their table and stared hard at Miss Doris. She looked up smilingly, and a gentleman of the party exclaimed: "Yes; I recognise that smile. You are a girl after all! It is the first time I have been foiled by any disguise. I have watched you four nights running, and been had !" He handed her his card, which bore the name of a well-known private detective.

On one occasion she might be described as an American "Sherlock Holmes." The detective before mentioned called at her hotel and asked her to assist him professionally. A large store in New York was being systematically and cleverly robbed? and no clue could be found to the burglars, nor how they gained their admittance, although the aid of several detectives had been sought. It was arranged that Miss Doris should be dressed as a fashion dummy, and spend a night amongst the other waxen figures at the store.

"It was very dull," she said, "and an hour seemed as long as a day; but presently I saw a faint glimmer of light, and the nightwatchman came hurriedly up, helped himself from the shelves, then hastened with his booty to some place I could not see, and returned again for some more. On his last journey he came against me with such force that I fell, and upset three other figures."

"Confound these dummies," he muttered, setting one on its feet with a bang.

The Motogirl lay low until he had disappeared, locking the doors after him; then she cautiously got up and with a pass-key let herself out and the police in waiting in, who captured the thief without trouble, with the stolen goods round him. Her reward for this nerve-trying ordeal was two hundred pounds.

"Well," said the detective, "you are wonderful. Join our profession and you will make a fortune." But the girl-doll prefers to win fame before the footlights.

In private life she is a shy little girl, pretty and refined, and when she can lice dragged into conversation can say things worth listening to. she is devoted to her adopted mother?

who designs all her frocks and frills, and Mr. Melville guards her as the apple of his eye.

"I never feel pain," she told me. "I hardly know what it means; and I never drink tea or coffee, so I have no nerves." An attempt to extract any information about the preparation which Mr. Melville uses to convert the girl into a doll was ignored; but as girl and doll she is nearly perfect, and plays both roles to the life.

Perhaps the most startling of her experiences occurred in the bull-ring at Monterey, Mexico, where, on a tiny platform about four inches high (the one on which she is photographed here), she stood waiting for the bull to be let out. A flourish of trumpets announced his liberation. Dazed at first by the sudden light and surging crowd, with lowered and quivering nostrils he came with a mad rush, bellowing in an ear-stunning fashion and wildly pawing the ground with his forefeet. Then he saw the little, smiling figure on a stand, and approached near enough for her to feel his hot breath on her face. The bull and girl made an enthralling study. The spectators held their breath, and so did the Motogirl, for the quiver of an eyelid spelt death. He stood still, but continued his blusterous solo; then, after what must have. seemed ages to that little waiting figure, he turned tail and ran to try and find some thing he could understand better than a girl-doll.

The matador attracted his attention while she escaped from the ring, to be greeted by tumultuous rounds of applause and cries of "Il Reina del Valor" (Queen of Valour), a title by which she is still known in Mexico.

"Of course," said her manager, "the bull had not then been teased or tormented, or-with all my belief in her power-I would not have dared to trust her in that ring. Mexico rang with her wonderful achievement, and well it might," he added, enthusiastically.

When the Motogirl first visited Spain her manager applied for permission for her to appear in the bull-ring at Madrid, but it was refused. On her next visit there they hope their application will meet with better success.

After a performance at Prague, Austria, when the doll was carried round for inspection by the audience, a man seized her by the jaw, and although she exerted all her strength he forced her mouth open; she had, however, the presence of mind to keep it open until her manager placed one hand on top of her head and the other under her chin, and closed it seemingly with great difficulty.

An amusing and unrehearsed turn happened one night at a crowded house, when Mr. Melville and his doll fell from the narrow platform on which they cross to the audience into the orchestra and floored the fluteplayer, frightening him out of his senses and flattening him almost beyond recognition. despite a fall of six feet the Motogirl never turned a hair, and was picked up with the same glassy, fixed stare and stiff limbs.

"You know," said the doll, "when I am wound up my joints are stiff and I stumble about considerably; at one part of my performance I sway forward over the footlights at what is said to be an impossible angle, and then become upright again; very frequently women in the audience scream when I do this, for they think I have lost my balance and am falling headlong into the orchestra. I once had my face soundly smacked by one of the audience to test me, and another time was dropped on my head by a sceptical American to see if I was breakable!"

"May we kiss the doll?" asked two young gentlemen in the audience on one occasion.

"Yes, if you do not mind an electric shock," said Mr. Melville. One of them thought better of his proposal, but the second meant business, and approached within two or three inches of the lips of the fair charmer; but, always on the alert, her manager jerked her off her feet and she fell forward suddenly, much to the amusement of the audience and the chagrin of the would-be wooer, who retired.

The Motogirl has appeared before the Emperor Francis Josef and the Austrian Court, and while in Paris was invited to the Automobile Club to meet and puzzle President Loubet; but the greatest test slate has ever undergone was when she travelled in a box from St. Petersburg to Paris.

It was for a wager with a well-known theatrical manager, and Mr. Melville obtained permission from the authorities to travel with her, on the plea that she was a very valuable mechanical toy, impossible to replace. The critical moment came on crossing the frontier, when the doll was taken out and wound up for the satisfaction of the Customs officers, who were completely taken in and gave a receipt for the doll as a mechanical toy in perfectly good faith, and thus enabled Miss Doris and her manager to pocket a considerable sum of money. This feat has also been performed by her in America. But with the suspicious Russian authorities to contend against it was a much more formidable affair, and would probably have been a pretty serious matter if she had been discovered.

The following letter I copied from the original received by the Motogirl's manager:-

  The Phototype Company,
  Bombay, December 19th, 1903.

  DEAR SIR,-we shall thank you very much by giving the full particulars of your motogirl. We wish to purchase one if you will he kind to sell like one you exhibit in London, Paris, etc. Kindly let me know the price and the accessories for same motogirl.
  It is altogether a novelty to our idea.
  Hoping to hear soon from you,

  Yours faithfully,

  The accessories required for the figure are many. The wooden-looking gloved hands with their wires and strange adjuncts, the metal corset and collar, the copper-soled slippers and the wires meandering over her baby socks, are all necessary for the conversion of the girl into the doll.

  Although she is only five feet high and about seven stone in weight, when her toilette is completed her weight would tax a Sandow.

  She thoroughly enjoys a joke even at her own expense, and her pretty gestures and merry laugh prove that her dual personality does not affect her girlish spirits. Meeting a young and winsome feminine counterpart of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in real life is a very pleasant, if novel, experience.

See the full list of Fake and Pseudo Automatons and Robots here.

1953 – “Archie” & “Buster” Deep Water Robots – William E. Denny (American)


1953 – "Archie" & "Buster" Deep Water Robots – William E. Denny

'BILLION DOLLAR MERMAID' TO SEEK SUNKEN TREASURE—It's not a real mermaid—it's a 3,300-pound metal robot and its name is Archie. But the billion dollars is real, all right, says Archie's inventor and builder, William E. Denny. Kansas City, Kan., building contractor. The treasure is in gold and other valuable cargo in sunken ships that nobody has ever been able to salvage. Denny thinks that Archie can get it for him. Archie was built at a basic cost of $120,000 and 18 months' work. Details of Archie's construction and performance are seen in sketch at left, which shows not Archie, but his brother-to-be, Buster, a second robot that Denny is building. Archie has a big advantage over human divers. They can descend only 200 feet or so and work for for very short periods. Archie can go down 2,500 feet and work 24 hours a day if necessary. The robot can operate all kinds of tools. He can pick up an egg without breaking it and he can take a stout 2×4 and mash it into match-wood with one crunch of his powerful claw. In photo above, Denny holds a piece of 2×4 while Archie crushes it. Engineers who have watched preliminary tests says that Archie is practical. Final deep water tests will be made this summer and the first salvage attempt will be made off the coast of Massachusetts in August or September.


ROBOT DIVER–Kansas City inventor William E. Denny demonstrates the pilot model of his deep water robot, designed for salvage and rescue work at depths of 2,500 feet. Denny plans to use the $120,000 device, which is equipped with television cameras and lights, to probe for sunken gold off the Atlantic seaboard.—NEA Telephoto.

Text from a published prospectus c1954…

(Pat. Pending)
A Remote Control Mechanical Means of Deep Water Exploration and Salvage Work
DESIGNED: To circumvent the human element in extreme pressures of deep water exploration.
To propel, lift and lower itself to great depths in the sea by self contained power units.
To televise a continuous picture of surroundings to the operators viewing screen in the control room.
To operate the cutting torch and various tools required in deep water salvage work.
To operate by remote control through a conduit cable connecting Robot and control board on the mother ship.
The Deep Water Robot is immune to many of the hazards that confront the deep sea diver. The shark, the octopus, strong currents or broken air lines do not obstruct its performance. The Robot provides a safe, efficient means of deep sea salvage operations and can work twenty-four hours a day at depths far below the reach of the human diver. Tools attached to the working arms can be interchanged to perform numerous tasks, thus making salvaging operations feasible that were heretofore impossible to perform.

Robot Diver. Inc., hereinafter sometimes referred to as the "Company" or 'Robot Diver" has its office and shop at 109 Hardesty Ave.. Kansas City. Missouri. The enterprise was started as a corporation in 1952, by William E. Denny, now President of the Company, the Articles of Incorporation being dated the eighth day of August, 1952, and being signed by William E. Denny, A. A. Krogsdale, and Fred F. Bake as subscribers to the shares of stock. On the eleventh day of August, 1952, a certificate of In-corporation was issued to the Company by the Secretary of State of Missouri.
During the course of many centuries, Man has made tremendous strides in mastering the forces of Nature upon the surface of the earth, the surface of the Ocean, and in the air surrounding us.
But thus far, Man is almost impotent before the infinite power of the ocean depths. Using presently available diving equipment and current standard operating procedure, a human diver can descend only a few hundred feet under water. He must work under such tremendous air pressure and in water so cold, that he can stay submerged only a very short period of time. His field of maneuverability is limited very greatly.
As a result, countless ships lie on the ocean floors, containing untold millions of dollars of salvageable cargo awaiting recovery by the person who can devise a revolutionary method of removal. Unfathomable secrets of marine life and of the ocean floors await disclosure by the person who can invent a machine capable of reaching and exploring such mysteries.
Today, there is in existence such a revolutionary device which is capable of giving Man the same mastery over the ocean depths as the airplane has given over space. This key to such success is the Robot Diver.
The primary purpose of the Robot Diver will be to locate and to reclaim for the Company, gold and silver bullion valued at hundreds of millions of dollars which has been lost at sea during the many centuries of the past. Other types of valuable cargoes which the Robot Diver will search for are oil, rubber, scarce metals, iron and steel, etc.
Demonstrations will be conducted for the United States Navy to show that the Robot Diver will help in saving lives of sailors who might be sunk at sea in a submarine. In the recent sinking of a Turkish submarine, all lives aboard were lost because human divers could not operate at the depth and under the turbulent conditions prevailing where the submarine sank. We can also demonstrate that the Robot Diver has other uses for national defense such as underwater demolition, destruction of enemy harbor defenses. etc.
For all of the purposes mentioned above the Robot Diver is the logical and practicable means of attaining such goals.

The first salvages by the Robot Diver will be made upon ships sunk during the war in the Gulf of Mexico. There were 350 ships sunk containing oil and other merchantable cargoes. We plan to raise, by means of the Robot Diver, small enemy craft sunk during the war for the salvage of copper, steel and other metals.
The first gold salvage by the Robot Diver will be made upon a steel ship which sank some thirty miles off the coast of Rhode Island, while carrying gold bullion valued at three million dollars. About two years ago, human divers made an unsuccessful attempt to salvage this gold ship, but conditions which the Robot Diver can overcome caused the human divers to fail.
The next salvage operation will be on the H. M. S. Hampshire off the Irish coast. The ship contains $9,260,000 and lies in 450 feet of water. Next will be the Santa Cecelia, off the Juan Fernandez Islands. It had $5,000,000 aboard when it sank. The next two salvages will be the liner Merida with $5,000,000 and the S. S. Central America with $7,000,000.
That will make a total return to this corporation of $29,260.000 for the first five gold salvages. The operational cost will be very small and the time consumed would be short and fast moving. Then we will move in to salvage such as the $121,000,000 off the coast of Brazil. Of course those will be more difficult but we will have the experience of the easier and more shallow water salvages.
However, the sunken treasures and merchantable cargoes that are salvaged will not be the source of most of the dividends paid by this corporation. The Marine insurance business that the Robot Diver makes possible will run into billions of dollars in insurance premiums. In the near future when a ship sinks, this company will be able to raise and return the ship to its owners by means of the Robot Divers. In the meantime, the ship owners will be paying billions of dollars to Lloyds of London for insurance premiums, which will be underwritten by this corporation. So the returns from one share of stock in this company will be enormous.
We plan to use an LCI for our operations ship. It is 158 feet long and has a 4000 mile cruising range. It is a 400 ton vessel and will weather any storms of the seven seas.
The engineering and technical aspects of our entire operation are practical and sound, which seems to indicate success in this enterprise. We do not expect to be entirely free from obstacles to this success but such obstacles will not be insurmountable or even severe. The most difficult part, that of the original development, fabrication. testing and revising the original design as a result of the test, is complete. We expect to be engaged in our first salvage operation at an early date.
Mail inquiries to Robot Diver. Inc., 516 Broadway, Cape Girardeau, Mo.

The 1953 "Archie" & "Buster" Deep Water Robots by William E. Denny pre-date Hughes underwater MOBOT concept by six years.


Deep water MOBOT concept from Hughes 1959 brochure.

See other early Underwater Robots here.