Archive for the ‘The Robots’ Category

1978 – “Kermit” the Robot – Ron Milner and Larry Nicolson (American)


1978 – "Kermit" the Robot by Ron Milner and Larry Nicolson of Cyan Engineering for Atari Inc.

Owen Rubin Shows "Kermit" Ataris Prototype Robot Pet from Jeri Ellsworth on Vimeo.


Images from Owen Rubin's website here.








Kermit's fabricated security pass.



The Story Of Kermit The Robot by Owen Rubin.

I did not build Kermit. It was originally built by Atari's Engineering group in Grass Valley, California. Kermit was abandoned in the Sunnyvale offices, and I rescued him. I did some electronic work to make it run again (needed some rework on a some parts, and all the motion sensors for the wheels and head needed to be changed) and wrote some new software to make it do different things. As you can see, he is not in the best shape right now. It will power up (the battery is dead, but a desk power supply will work) but one motor has gone bad, and the sensors are out again. He also took a spill down the stairs at Atari in his last few days (my own fault for just letting him run free around the building) and it cracked his head (a plastic bowl) and broke a bunch of the bulbs in the head dome. Some day I may actually get him running again.

The hair was a joke of mine! There is a small button under the hair, so if you pet him, he stops and purrs! I also MADE the name badge, it was not an official badge. The security people were VERY angry that I made it, because it looked so good.

If you look at picture 10, you can see the sensors. The two big ones are ultrasonic, like the old Polaroid cameras. His head can rotate 180 degrees in EACH direction so he can "see" 360 degrees. When he would bump something, or sense an object in his way, he would stop and rotate his head through the full 360 mapping all directions, then go in the direction that had the greatest distance clear.

Next to the ultrasonic sensors are two microphones for sound. At the time, the only sensed sharp sounds like a hand clap. When the heard a clap. He would stop and turn his head towards the sound. A second clap would further define the direction and he would head towards the sound.

Below is a small heat sensor (we wanted him to look for warm bodies, but he would head into fireplaces. Never got that working. Above is a light sensor, "walk towards the light" was the idea. If a room went dark, he would look for light and sound.

Also visible is a small "leash" connector (directly under the dome below his left (our right) mic. This was a pot with a small switch. If you pulled on the leash, the switch would close and Kermit would try and center the leash to go that direction. He would continue to move "forward" or which ever way centered the leash until the switch opened (ie, he got close) and then wait for about 30 seconds before trying to move on his own. His first move was always straight backwards to see if the leash would tighten and close the switch.

He also has an antenna for remote control (used an old Radio Shack walkie-talkie with some tones for remote (required another board to be plugged into the bus slots (there is one empty.)

There are 4 boards in Kermit right now. Photos 2 and 7 show the end board which had all the sensor interface circuits and light drivers for the head. In Kermit 4 you can see the other board in the slots. The next one over is a "mouse brain", which is a small 6502 and EEPROM and RAM. The third board is a sound driver, simple wave circuits for music like sounds. He sounds a bit like R2D2! The last board is the driver relays for the stepper motors for the back wheels.

The wheels are direct driven by stepper motors that are held in by springs against the wheels. The front wheel is simply a castor with a leaf switch attached. The idea was that IF the leaf switch opened, Kermit would do an "emergency back" move. Basically, an R2D2 scream sound and both motors back as fast as possible for a short burst. Again, this was assumed that he was going over a ledge. Unfortunately, his death was in just such a move, as his weight is too front heavy, and he screamed and spun his wheels backwards as he tumbled down the stairs at Atari (seems that the stairs were the longest open space, and while the switch did work, he weight tipped him over head first before he could back up.)

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Extract from Atari Inc. – Business Is Fun, by  Marty-Goldberg-Curt Vendel, 2012. p259-65.
On May 25, 1977, the entire entertainment industry and our societal culture are altered in a permanent and monumental way. Nearly every facet of society discovers a whole new world brought to the big screen from a 'galaxy far, far away…' Star Wars premieres and takes not just America, but the entire world by storm!
With a storyline that revolves around knights wielding swords made of light, on a secret mission to save the princess from the evil empire, recover stolen plans and destroy the ultimate weapon… a new culture is born and the next generation of technologically advanced cinema lays the groundwork for the complete retooling of the movie theatre environment. All of this is put together with never-before-seen realistic groundbreaking special effects, sounds and a background score written by John Williams and performed by the London Symphony Orchestra.
The movie showcases some of THE most realistic spaceship designs, laser pistols and computer terminals seen to date, along with two `droid' robots which are not only pivotal to the storyline, but provide an almost comic relief to the movie. One is a bumbling, skittish humanoid looking droid called C3PO who can speak proper English, among its numerous other dialects. The other is a cute small domed top Astromech droid called R2D2.
This particular character cannot speak any verbal words, but communicates by cute and emotionally toned bleeps and chirps, all which convey its demeanor and tone remarkably well to the audience. Unlike the countless sci-fi movies spanning decades prior, Star Wars created a used universe instead of shiny, clean and perfect objects and characters. Everything appears used, worn and working just as real world common items look outside of the movie theatre. The technologies shown in this movie seem plausible and reasonable, causing the audience to think and wonder "Why not?" So if there are realistic robots in the movie, why not real robots in today's world?
Star Wars would set imaginations ablaze with the burning desire to see those technologies becoming something everyone could own. With the accomplishments of the space race (landing on the moon, walking on the moon and satellites being lofted into space on a nearly monthly basis), space and technology were a real part of society. Magazine and newspaper articles of the day showed a stream of topics about how computers were improving society and were now within the reach of individuals to own in their own homes.
During the two years prior to the Star Wars premiere, people were already connecting high tech video game devices to their home televisions to turn the usual evening of cards or board games into a futuristic battle of skill on the video play-fields. Everywhere within society's gathering places – from bars, restaurants, bowling alleys and more, coin-operated video arcade games were popping up and becoming commonplace. The world was becoming more like the futuristic fantasies of the big screen, so with all of these marvels of technology it was very easy to accept the idea that soon robots would be seeing us to our seats at restaurants and cleaning windows on the sides of tall glass skyscrapers. Who knows – those nights of playing video games on the home TV might soon be played against a personal robot sitting right there holding the controls and battling it out against us in a round of Home PONG… that is, AFTER it had just brought out a tray of snacks and a few ice cold drinks.
Just a few weeks shy of the one year anniversary since the premiere of Star Wars, Ron Milner and Larry Nicolson of Cyan Engineering draft an Atari Inter-office Memo to Al Alcorn, Steve Bristow, Nolan Bushnell and Joe Keenan. Dated May 1, 1978, the subject is: "Proposal – Kermit the Robot." Kermit is actually meant to be an extension or a compliment to the 'Colleen' computer system. In the memo, it's explained that 'Kermit is an inquisitive little fellow who can get around a bit on his own but whose personality develops fully when working with the Colleen system. He can be operated through Colleen to act as remote eyes and ears for the user's program.' How Kermit would 'talk' to Colleen was a rather unique implementation. Instead of a wireless link, Kermit and Colleen would communicate using audio tones; in fact the tones would actually be a part of the robot's personality and provide a low cost means of communication.
As the R2D2 robot 'talked' through chirps and bleeps to the actors on the screen and to the audiences in the theatres, the Kermit Robot would do very much the same thing to communicate with its intelligent home base – Colleen. On May 26th, the Kermit robot project is approved and work commences. The first order of business is a drive train to allow the robot to move and navigate. Surface measurements for starting and maintaining force are calculated for wood, tile, linoleum, shag rug, pile rug and climbing onto and off of a throw rug. (all that was left to check on would be if Kermit could handle the harsh conditions of the planet Tatooine)
An interesting project was piggybacked off of the robot development called `Robot Chess.' Since the Cyan engineers were already deep into the development of a robot, these concepts and designs could be further evaluated and implemented into a board game of chess. The design was created on Atari's 6th anniversary (June 27, 1978), however the idea is never worked on past the concept stage.
In December of 1980, a company by the name of Applied Concepts would release nearly the same Chess game design, called BORIS HANDroid. Retailing for a staggering $1,400, the Cyan engineers believed they could have done a product with a retail cost of under $250 back in 1978 – yet another idea that Cyan prototyped goes out the door to be sold as a product, but unfortunately, not by Cyan.
As Kermit is being developed, the team begins to look at fun and playful capabilities and even accessories for the robot. Up and Down servo's are considered so it can 'dance' by bopping up and down – it could have lights, have the top turret turn, floor reflective sensors to follow paths and of course, what robot shouldn't also have its own super-squirt gun for water fights around the house? Yes, a design is drafted for a mechanical squirt gun to shoot water at Kermit's owner and companions. By September, work is proceeding to the point where the team starts to work on its own language for Kermit (called `ROBOL') to allow simple plain English commands to be entered into the Colleen computer and then translated into Kermit's own language.
Also during September, a second project is spun off from the Kermit design work. Larry Nicholson wants to do a stripped down toy robot based on the early stage design work with a single chip controller onboard and sensors that would include feelers, light and maybe a microphone for detecting sounds. Initially called mini-Kermits, they get their own designations – Varmit, Furmit and Wurmit.
It's finally time for Kermit to stretch his legs, or to be a bit more accurate, spin its wheels. Tethered to a desk control module via a long ribbon cable, Kermit is placed onto a large sheet of engineering drafting paper normally used by Atari engineers to draw out schematics, mechanical drawings and circuit designs. Kermit is fitted with a pen and a test is performed to gauge Kermit's navigational accuracy. Commands are sent to the onboard systems – Run, Turn, Run, Reverse, Turn, Run and Maneuver. Some wheel errors are detected during the turns and the team thinks this can be corrected through the software control. Kermit has taken its first `baby steps.'
Kermit took a walk with its leash (the ribbon cable attached the desktop control module) in October. Unfortunately, it's quickly discovered that Kermit cannot negotiate carpet! This is a serious failing and several major design changes needed to he made including wider drive wheels and a wider front direction castor wheel. The weight will have to be reduced quite a bit and also, Kermit's center of gravity is too far off because of the weight of the large battery behind the main axle.
Meanwhile the mini-Kermit idea has now moved into its own full blown project and a patent as well. On November 8, 1978, an Atari Invention Disclosure Form is filled out and submitted by Ron Milner and Gene Wise for their invention: Toy Robot. In the electronic toys class, the product is called `VARMIT.' On December 1st a fully working Varmit is completed and tested using one-wheel drive and two trailing wheels – the design proves to be very agile and maneuverable. Varmit looks like furry mouse; it even speaks by making noises, using a simple 555 timer chip and a small 4-bit DAC to control pitch and a capacitor to do a frequency sweep. The resulting sounds are cute and pleasant and fit the furry little robot.
Ron Milner notes on December 1, 1978 in his engineering logbook that "Varmit is now off to the Warner's Board meeting with Nolan. Some decision can be expected eventually." Unfortunately this board meeting would be the catastrophic showdown between Nolan Bushnell and Manny Gerard that turns into a drop down screaming match and ends with Nolan being removed as Chairman and CEO of Atari. Varmit never gets its chance to become a new Atari product, however, strangely enough, Varmit does not go away quietly.
By the mid 1980s, Varmit will make its return thanks to Nolan Bushnell. Initially called 'Micro Pets,' the new line of robots are officially called `Petsters' at their release. The Petsters would have all of the same characteristics and features of Varmit, and much more. They will don new personas, coming in all shapes and sizes – from cats, dogs, hamsters… and even a spider which was more of a hardwood floor mop than an entertainment robot.
At Cyan through November and December of 1978, work on Kermit continues and now most of the control and sensor logic are onboard and programming work continues. The team also realizes that the `Robol' language was becoming difficult to check out and may have been a mistake to create and implement, as it's making debugging the routines hard. Also, teaching Kermit things, like how to self navigate out of a corner and how to choose the longest free path were slow to implement.
Making matters worse, pressure was coming down from the top that Cyan needed to show something that demonstrated and worked properly or the project would be terminated. After two weeks, Kermit was now freely wandering the Cyan labs without bumping into things (most of the time) by using its onboard ultrasonic range sensors. Some housecleaning work on its routines were being done to fine tune its ability to navigate and sense its surroundings, and the team hoped to then start to add in some more interesting behaviors. But before they get to the next phase, on January 21, 1979 word comes to Cyan… Kermit has been canned due to Atari politics. Essentially the project was only being championed by Nolan (whose original mandate to the Cyan guys was 'design a robot that can bring me a beer') as well as Joe Keenan, Al Alcorn and Steve Bristow. However by January 1979, Nolan had been removed from his role in the company, Joe Keenan was now the Chairman and Steve Bristow was tasked with spinning down the Pinball manufacturing building and retooling it to build the new line of Home Computers which just debuted at the Winter CES in Las Vegas.
Kermit would still continue to be an active member of the Cyan engineering group though, traveling about the office. Chirping, beeping and happily maneuvering around the lab benches. Kermit even had its own Atari ID badge, only the second of two non-humans to ever have the privilege of being officially 'unofficial' Atari employees – the other was Mitchy, Jay Miner's dog.
Brought down to Atari's engineering building in Sunnyvale a few times, finally at one point after the project is no longer being active, Kermit was given to Owen Rubin to become its adopted caretaker. Kermit would sit in Owen's office until Owen began tinkering with its ROM code, trying to add some additional intelligence to its programming. Through some trial and error with this new programming, Kermit is sent off down the hallway to venture around the offices of the engineering building at 1272 Borregas Avenue.
Sadly, Kermit would ultimately meet with disaster. While some basic safety mechanisms were built into Kermit, they were not quite refined enough for long unattended excursions. On the front wheel of Kermit is a drop switch sensor so that if the front wheel of Kermit were to drop down suddenly, it would let out a squealing sound and immediately back up. However the sensor timing and its ability to react were not fast enough to save the little guy from a final deadly spill. One day Kermit took to his usual roaming of the halls of Atari, joyfully chirping and maneuvering about when he happened upon an open door to the stairwell. Kermit moved to the edge of the top stairs… its front wheel dropped as intended, but momentum and gravity would be quicker then Kermit's sensor and programming. Suddenly a blood curdling robot squeal echoes throughout 1272, followed by crashing, bouncing and breaking sounds.
Owen and others in the Engineering department ran to the stairwell – lying at the bottom of the next landing like humpty dumpty was Kermit, its dome cracked slightly and some components jarred out of place. Kermit's days of roaming the halls of Atari sadly came to an end that day and from then on, he would stay in the office, motionless and chirpless. When Owen left Atari, Kermit was taken home to become a part of Owen's collection of Atari memories.

No, this "Kermit the Robot" is not the robot version of "Kermit the Frog".


See other early Mobile Robots here.
See other early Humanoid Robots here.

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1979 – “NUTRO” the Robot – (American)


1979 – "NUTRO" the Robot by Hoffmann-La Roche Inc.




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The Index-Journal, Greenwood, S.C. Sat., April 21, 1979-p7
Robot raves about nutrition

Caption: Traveling companions – Nutritionist Dave Canty serves as voice and remote-control operator for Nutro, a 400-pound robot who tours the country speaking to children on nutrition.
NUTLEY, N.J — Traveling coast-to-coast to visit six cities in six weeks is not an easy trip for anyone, but it's especially complicated if you happen to be a 400-pound, remote-controlled robot.
There's the need for specially designed vehicles, the confusion of traveling in the baggage compartments of airplanes, the inconvenience of batteries that need daily charging, the danger of shorting electric body circuits in the rain, the problems of bolts that come loose over bumpy roads, arid the inability to climb steps.
SINCE HIS FIRST nationwide tour last fall in a rented high-roof van, Nutro, a robot whose name was suggested by a combination of the words nutrition and robot, has solved some of his traveling problems.
For his spring tour of eight cities, he will travel as a U.S. symbol for the International Year of the Child, as it relates to children's rights to adequate nutrition, in his personal, custom-made van.
It features a hydraulic lift to ease Nutro's exit to the street and a special outlet that runs off the van's alternator to provide on-the-road battery recharging.
NUTRO, A CREATION of the Vitamin Education Program of Hoffmann-La Roche Inc., as a public-service, nutrition-education program, is touring as a "guest lecturer" on the subject of nutrition. His message, delivered in schools across the country, is on the importance of proper nutrition and correct nutrition information.
The 5-foot-2, 31-inch-wide, conical-shape robot has a movable globe head, red light-bulb eyes and flexible accordion-like arms. His wood and metal frame is clothed in a combination of yellow spandex and red and blue glittery lurex fabric. It houses over 500 moving parts and 2,000 feet of wire.
Nutro's head moves from side to side and can soar 12 inches skyward when he explains how excited he is about nutrition His chest lights up to emphasize the essential nutrients printed on his chest wall. He can wave and shake hands.
Nutro may be the most heavily insured teacher's aide around. His voice alone is insured for $150,000 with Lloyds of London, and monthly premiums on protecting his body and his program total $600. The construction bill was $25,000, and an identical stand-in cost $20,000.
TRAVELING THE country is rarely easy for Nutro but is never lonely. He is always accompanied by Joe Wilkenson, his technician, and Dave Canty, a Ph.D-candidate nutritionist who serves as his voice and remote-control operator.
In his first tour, Nutro traveled completely assembled inside his original shipping crate. Every night when his companions checked into motels, he went along, sharing a room with his technician, and plugged into electric outlets to recharge his batteries. Meanwhile, his 9-volt voice box was being charged in another outlet and his 12-volt remote-control equipment in a third.
EXITING FROM his van on a makeshift ramp was a clumsy process during last year's 8,000-mile tour. Sometimes Nutro was wheeled down the ramp but at other times, particularly when a crowd of curious children had gathered, he moved down the ramp on his pneumatic tires under his own power, with Canty working the remote controls.
If there are special problems in traveling with a robot there are also special privileges. None of the motels where Nutro stayed charged him for his visits despite all the electric current he used for his batteries.
Although Nutro's favorite topic of conversation is nutrition, Canty admits that the robot has developed into a unique character with a personality of his own during his months on the road.
IN HIS MUNCHKIN-LIKE voice, he teases motel maids by telling them he is the replacement sent to take over their jobs.
And although most of his time is spent in schools and the children's wards of hospitals. Nutro has also found time to try out his John Wayne imitation at a Hollywood party. learn to wolf whistle, and do what he calls a "funky robot disco" at a chic Manhattan nightspot.

Taste of the Past: The nuts and bolts of nutrition. Source: Star Tribune.
Robot helped students understand nutrition.
By RICK NELSON Star Tribune
March 31, 2010 — 2:40pm
Students at Page Elementary School learn nutrition from a robot.
William Seaman, Star Tribune
Students at Page Elementary School learn nutrition from a robot.

Take a look at cutting-edge educational technology, circa 1979. His name was Nutro, and he rolled into Page Elementary School in Minneapolis as a part of a nationwide tour of sixth- and seventh-grade classrooms.

The goal of Nutro's work was to spice up the bone-dry topic of nutrition for tween audiences, which he accomplished with a lively mix of chatter and Q&A. Of course, the sci-fi metal and plastic get-up didn't hurt.

"Although he positively hypnotized the delighted and eager students, Nutro couldn't function without a real, live nutrition expert's help," wrote Beth Anderson, a Taste staff writer, in a May 2, 1979, story. "Dave Canty, a 27-year-old who has finished his doctoral course work in nutritional sciences, was folded up inside Nutro's cone-shaped body."

Turns out Canty — sorry, Nutro — wasn't part of a 1970s No Child Left Behind-style government initiative; his work was sponsored by a vitamin manufacturer. Anderson noted that Canty intended to use "Nutro's educational experiences in his doctoral work, by comparing Nutro's effectiveness with schoolchildren with the same techniques executed by the biochemical unit commonly known as a teacher."

See other early Humanoid Robots here.

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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.

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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.

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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.

andys-show-life-1 - Copy-x640

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.

An Alvaro Villa animatronic patent when he worked for Disney's Imagineering.



Publication number    US4177589 A
Publication date    11 Dec 1979
Filing date    11 Oct 1977
Inventor    Alvaro J. Villa
Original Assignee    Walt Disney Productions

Three-dimensional animated facial control
An artificially animated face with three-dimensional facial features formed of a flexible material is provided with remotely actuable concealed mechanisms for manipulating the jaw, rounding the mouth, and drawing the lower lip inward relative to the upper lip. The face is operated by an audio input either from a microphone or from an audio tape. The audio input is fed both through an audio amplification system to a speaker located proximate to the face, and also to an audio encoder which senses the major frequencies of the spoken sounds of the audio input and produces one or more digital signals in response thereto. If an "F" sound is detected, the lower lip of the figure is drawn inward to a slight degree, thus simulating human lip movement in sounding the consonant "F". If the decoder detects an "O" sound, the mouth is rounded in response thereto. If the decoder detects an "A" sound, the mouth is drawn into a line. The eyes of the figure may be blinked upon receipt of a specified number of digital signals, and a wind jet may be operated in tandem with the mechanism for drawing the lower lip inward to simulate the expulsion of air from the mouth in conjunction with an "F" sound.

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


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