Posts Tagged ‘1940’

1940 – Diving Bell Arm With Grippers – Friedrich Gall (German)


1940 – Diving Bell Arm With Grippers by Friedrich Gall
Working arm with grippers for diving chambers

Publication number    DE738760 C
Publication date    Aug 31, 1943
Filing date    Feb 6, 1940
Inventor    Friedrich Gall
Patent Citations (4), Referenced by (3), Classifications (3)
External Links: DPMA, Espacenet

See other related Friedrich Gall inventions here and here.

See other early Underwater Robots here.

1940 – “Roll-Oh” the Domestic Robot – (American)


1940 – "Roll-Oh" the Domestic Robot


"Roll-Oh" can grasp objects, has a retractable knife in its hand, as well as a plant watering system, a can opener, and a gas-flame lighter. Its foot is also a vacuum-cleaner.










Leave It to Roll-Oh (1940)

Tongue-in-cheek film showing a domestic robot freeing housewives of their chores (and intimating that their work is hardly necessary); actually a promo showing how relays and switches function in the modern automobile. Shown at the New York World's Fair in 1940.

This movie is part of the collection: Prelinger Archives

Producer: Jam Handy Organization
Sponsor: Chevrolet Division, General Motors Corporation
Audio/Visual: Sd, B&W   Source: here

[Thanks to my friend David Buckley for the link to the extended video version]

'Roll-Oh" partial transcript

Cast:     Roy from Roy's Robot Repairs (R)
             Housewife (H)

R: There Miss, you see the heterodynes were feeding back into the stimulus reaction activators causing non synapse of the motor control resistor units.

H:  Oh, that's good.
R: No Lady, that's bad. But your re-generative circuits are tuned asynchronously and that causes concatenation in the intermediate amplifiers.

H: Well that's bad, isn't it?

R: No, that's good. From now on I don't think there'll be the slightest trouble with your robut. Your domestic problems are completely solved.

         Robot Controls

Answer Door      Clean House
Wash Dishes     Get Dinner
Answer Phone    Make Bed
Get Hat              Fix Furnace

See other early Humanoid Robots here.

See other early Domestic Service Robots here.

See other early Pseudo and Fake Robots here.





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1940 – Project Pigeon (1948 – Project Orcon) – B.F. Skinner (American)

Painting (1986) by Anton van Dalenshowing B.F. Skinner with Project Pigeon.

Project Orcon

During World War II, Project Pigeon (later Project Orcon, for "organic control") was American behaviorist B. F. Skinner's attempt to develop a pigeon-guided missile.

The control system involved a lens at the front of the missile projecting an image of the target to a screen inside, while a pigeon trained (by operant conditioning) to recognize the target pecked at it. As long as the pecks remained in the center of the screen, the missile would fly straight, but pecks off-center would cause the screen to tilt, which would then, via a connection to the missile's flight controls, cause the missile to change course.

Although skeptical of the idea, the National Defense Research Committee nevertheless contributed $25,000 to the research. However, Skinner's plans to use pigeons in Pelican missiles was considered too eccentric and impractical; although he had some success with the training, he could not get his idea taken seriously. The program was canceled on October 8, 1944, because the military believed that "further prosecution of this project would seriously delay others which in the minds of the Division have more immediate promise of combat application."

Project Pigeon was revived by the Navy in 1948 as "Project Orcon" under the guidance of Dr. F.V. Taylor. The project was canceled in 1953 when electronic guidance systems' reliability was proven.

The documentary is in error in thinking that there is one pigeon sighting the target through the three portholes. There were actually three pigeons with their own porthole.

ELECTRONIC DESIGN, November 25, 1959, p. 16

A study of missile guidance by pigeon pecking has been taken out from under wraps by the Navy. At the same time, perhaps to calm fears of guidance designers, the Navy made clear that the project has been discontinued.

Started during World War II, Project Orcon (for organic control) was a try-anything approach to solving some then-current problems. Guidance systems for homing missiles were being easily countermeasured and the Navy thought animals might have potential as a jam-proof control element. Pigeons were selected for trial because they were light, easily obtainable and adaptable. Their job was to ride inside a missile and peck at an image of a target picked up by a lens in the missile's nose. The pigeon's pecking of the target image was translated into an error signal that corrected the simulated missile's simulated flight.

The project was revived in 1948 and carried further. In simulated rocket tests, the pigeons produced "surprisingly good results." The researchers were convinced that a pigeon could successfully guide a speeding missile under optimum conditions, compensating for his own and the missile's errors.

But after three years of equipment development and testing, the project was abandoned because the range of the Orcon system could be no greater than the range of any optical system and the system could be used only in the daytime. The trainer used target images photographed in color by a jet plane, which made picture-taking dives at a destroyer and a freighter in open sea.

Trainee pigeons were started out in the primary trainer pecking at slowly moving targets. They were rewarded with corn for each hit and quickly learned that good pecking meant more food. Eventually pigeons were able to track a target jumping back and forth at five inches per second for 80 seconds, without a break. Peck frequency turned out to be four per second, and more than 80 percent of the pecks were within a quarter inch of the target. The training conditions simulated missile-flight speeds of about 400 miles per hour.

The image was shown under a glass screen coated with stannic oxide to make it electrically conducting. Through circuitry based on the Wheatstone Bridge principle, pecks on the glass were translated into distance right and left and up and down from the center lines.

The target was moved by a small mirror controlled by a servo. The control circuits were such that if the pigeon stopped tracking, the target image would drift rapidly away from the center of the screen. This forced the pigeon to correct not only his own pecking errors, but those introduced by the yawing of the missile. It turned out that 55.3 per cent of the runs made were successful–that is, the pigeons were able to keep the target image on their screens for the duration of more than half their flights.

If pigeon guidance did not get very far in the Navy, it did have one valuable offshoot. The electrically conducting glass was later used in many radar displays. (ELECTRONIC DESIGN, November 25, 1959, p. 16)

The demonstrator nose-cone now in the National Museum of American History.

The nose cone was to be used on a glide bomb named PELICAN. (See here for further reference to glide bombs)


See pdf below on Animal Guidance Systems including ORCON. 

Source: Electronics Australia Jan 1972 reprint from Electronics World December 1971.

Source: New Scientist 8 Oct 1959.

Source: Toledo Blade 11 Oct 1959.

Source: Cumulatve Record : Pigeons in a Pelican by B.F. Skinner.

Further images can be found in the above pdf.


From Correspondence from Ronald C. McConnell, Ph.D.
Bell Labs retired, APL-JHU alumnus

mentions "George Carlton's "pigeon-pecking missile guidance project in the late 1940s. George headed the APL robot project 20 years later."

He later hinted to me that is was thought the real reason for the cessation of the project was that administrators could not come to terms with the issues surrounding the fact that pigeons had to die for the cause.

1940 – Silo, the Zenith Robot Man – (American)

Source: Nevada State Journal 12 Dec 1940.

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1940 – Walking SuperTank – Hutchinson and Smith (British)

This demonstration model was remotely controlled by means of flexible cables: the operator used one limb to control each leg. 

The British firm W. H. Allen & Company, with A. C. Hutchinson and F. S. Smith, designed the first military related walking machine in 1940. The proposed armoured fighting machine in a partly engineered state.

Of the various leg designs and configurations considered, No 2 above was the chosen preference.

From Todd's book "Walking Machines"

Rough-Terrain Transport
The earliest serious attempt to build a walking machine with independently controlled legs was made in Britain in 1940 by A. C. Hutchinson and F. S. Smith (Hutchinson 1967). Hutchinson, who worked for W. H. Allen & Company Ltd, suggested that for a very large armoured vehicle, in the 1000 ton class, legs would be better than tracks. Hutchinson and Smith decided on four legs and the quadruped crawl gait. They studied a variety of leg mechanisms, mainly intended to allow a pair of hydraulic actuators to produce easily separable vertical and horizontal movement. They chose a design with a rolling thigh joint, which acted as a kind of inverted wheel, and a telescoping leg.
The proposed control mechanism consisted of a feedback loop per leg, with the four legs each being controlled by the hand or foot of the driver: essentially the solution to be adopted by General Electric for the Walking Truck in the 1960s.
Hutchinson and Smith built a four legged model, about 60cm high, whose eight joints were controlled by flexible cables which led to a console at which the operator sat, with his feet on the two hind-leg pedals and his hands on the two fore-leg handles. The model was made to walk and to climb over a pile of books. (Not surprisingly, in 1940 the UK War Department was not prepared to abandon its commitment to the well established tracked tank, and the project was halted.)

Be careful when interpreting this photo.  The 'tiny' 12-ton tank mentioned in the caption is between the shovel and the tracks in the left-hand image.  The right-hand image is the 1000-ton Supertank. The actual legs are largely hidden (protected) by the 6-inch steel plating. The 'overshoe' on the foot can be mis-interpreted as a caterpiller track, which it is not.

The proposed dimensions of the "walking fighting machine"  is 42 feet long, 30 feet wide, and 18 feet high. 

As an aside, its been suggested by others that the Star Wars Jawa Sandcrawler looks very similar to Hutchinson's "Super tank".



The above images are all from "Machines Can Walk" by Hutchinson, 1967 – see full pdf here.

For the researcher on this particular machine, the UK Archives have lots of other information  – see here.

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