Posts Tagged ‘Automaton’

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

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1982 – "A2W2" the Andy Warhol Robot.

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"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.

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Source: Times Daily, Oct 30, 1982.


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Alvaro Villa with some of his animatronic figures.

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

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

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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

May 16, 2002|AL RIDENOUR | SPECIAL TO THE LA TIMES

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
NEWSCIENCE/INNOVATIONS
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."
Source: POPULAR MECHANICS • APRIL 1984


ANDY WARHOL ROBOT IN LIVERPOOL

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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.

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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.
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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
Abstract
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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1982 – “Marilyn Monroe” the Cybot – Shunichi Mizuno (Japanese)

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Inventor Shunichi Mizuno, now president of Cybot Corporation in Japan, at work on his robot. Image source: Robots, machines in man's image, Isaac Asimov, Karen A. Frenkel – 1985.

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Photo by Mark Wexler.

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Caption: Instead of diamonds, up to 20,000 electronic components are this girl's best friends. Low-[pressure] pneumatic valves controlled by a microcomputer give "New Monroe" facial expressions and body movement. Although gemless, New Monroe was first exhibited at the 1982 Osaka Jewel Fair.

Robots, machines in man's image – Page 117
Isaac Asimov, Karen A. Frenkel – 1985
Other robots in the image of famous personalities, including Thomas Edison, have been created by Shunichi Mizuno, president of the Japanese company Cybot Corporation in Osaka. In 1982, New Monroe, a facsimile of Marilyn Monroe, was introduced at the Jewel Fair in Osaka. …. New Monroe has forty movements, enabling it to laugh, sing, talk, and strum a guitar. Cybot also created a fairy and a mermaid, which were both used in department store displays.

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Caption: Shunichi Mizuno invents sophisticated and erotic servo-controlled robots for exhibitions and displays.

New Marilyn, the creation of Shunichi Mizuno, is computer-programmed to sing River of No Return, play a guitar, wiggle and wink. Others in the Mizuno family include Thomas Edison and John F. Kennedy.

Inside the Robot Kingdom: Japan, Mechatronics, and the Coming Robotopia. – Page 63, Frederik L. Schodt – 1988
A MODERN AUTOMATA ARTIST Shunichi Mizuno, the president of Cybot, Inc., is a modern-day automata creator in the European tradition— but in Japan. Mizuno makes what he calls "cybots," or "cybernetic robots," which are not for industry or research but for display. Appropriately, his background is in both electronics engineering and animated storefront displays. His goal is to create robots that, with emotional expressions, are as lifelike as possible.    
"I want to see how close I can get to a human using cybernetics," he says. The ultimate expression of humanity, he believes, is eroticism, and eroticizing the machine therefore "will be essential for the coexistence of man and machine in the future." One of Mizuno's most famous robots is Marilyn Monroe, seated and playing a guitar. Ironically, Mizuno has often been frustrated in converting people to his viewpoint in Japan. Like roboticist Ichiro Kato, he believes that Japanese people favor the world of deformation and the softening of reality as seen in Japan's traditional theater and arts. As a result the Japanese public often find his dolls too realistic and unnerving.
Westerners and even the Taiwanese, says Mizuno, have been far more appreciative of what he is –    trying to do.

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Beyond the industrial robot
By TODD R. EASTHAM   |   April 5, 1983. Source: here.

TOKYO — Picture the perfect servant: a guardian and playmate for the children, companion to the elderly, skilled musician, mechanic, gardener, cook, as strong as an ox and gentle as a kitten.

Impossible? Not if the servant is an android, says electrical engineer Shunichi Mizuno.

An android is a computerized robot made to resemble and behave like a human being.

Mizuno, president of Cybot Co. Ltd. of Tokyo, thinks the first generation of androids could be on the market in about 30 years.

Mizuno, who describes himself as a 'technical display artist,' is working on a special aspect of android development. While others work on its brain and senses, he is busy perfecting its skin, its muscles and its bones.

His first success was a computerized Marilyn Monroe robot, created about 10 years ago. A second life-sized Marilyn constructed recently uses a microcomputer-controlled air compressor to regulate facial expressions.

'She' can mouth a song, shrug her shoulders, wink an eye and strum a guitar with a natural elegance that belies her mechanical heart.

Mizuno leases her out for about $10,000 a month for advertising and display. His small workshop-warehouse is home to another half dozen humanoid machines based on popular fiction or his own fantasy.

Already Japanese and American factories employ a wide range of industrial robots to perform heavy, dangerous or dirty tasks shunned by their workers. Japanese 'mechatronics' experts are busy designing more flexible and efficient robots for industry.

Japanese toy manufacturers have devised a new generation of computerized toys that speak and respond creatively to voice or sensory input to perform a growing array of complex functions.

Computer scientists in Japan and elsewhere are piecing together the means to simulate human intelligence and creativity in machines.

Japanese researchers from nine high technology firms are working under a government grant on the so-called 'Fifth Generation Computer Project.'

They hope to develop a superfast, superintelligent computer that might respond swiftly to spoken, written or visual input, exercise near-human judgment or suggest modifications to its own program if it seems unsuited to the task at hand.

Other researchers responding to the need for word processors to read the complex written characters of the Japanese language have developed computers capable of recognizing patterns, laying the groundwork for machines that can see and respond to their visual environment.

One soon-to-be unveiled creation will be able to speak. Based on a popular comic strip heroine, the new robot will have about 30 phrases in her repertoire and will be capable of responding to spoken input, Mizuno said.

'It took me over 20 years to reach this stage,' he said. 'I spent eight years developing the skin alone.'

'People must learn to co-exist with machines in the future,' he said. Development of androids is, for better or worse, inevitable, he believes. 'People must learn to use robots so robots cannot use people.'

Mizuno has joined with a group of scientists and engineers headed by Dr. Ichiro Kato of Waseda University to explore potential in the field.


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


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1820 – Prosopographus, the Automaton Artist – Charles Hervé

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Prosopographus

Selected extract from the full post by Patrick Feaster here.

Between 1820 and 1835, a machine was exhibited around Great Britain that was advertised as taking people’s portraits by strictly automatic means.  Someone had only to pay a shilling and sit perfectly still next to it for the space of a minute to obtain a likeness alleged to be more accurate than anything a living artist could have drawn.  The machine relied on principles very different from those of photography, first introduced to the world via the daguerreotype in 1839, and its portraits didn’t anticipate the photographic portraits of later years in any technical sense.  However, they did anticipate them quite closely in a cultural sense.  As far as subjects were concerned, they might have gone to get their pictures taken by this machine in 1825, and again by a photographic camera in 1845, without perceiving any fundamental difference between the two experiences.  In both cases, they would have been told that their likenesses were being captured automatically, without the mediation of a human observer, although they might still have paid extra for someone to touch up the results afterwards or add color to them.  The earlier machine went by the name of “Prosopographus, the Automaton Artist,” and it produced silhouettes—thousands upon thousands of them, if reports from the time are to be believed.  I was recently fortunate enough to acquire one, which is what prompted me to pull together the following account.

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In appearance, Prosopographus was a miniature android figure dressed in fancy Spanish costume, shown above as illustrated on a period handbill.  I’ll refer to it here myself as “it,” but contemporaries generally anthropomorphized it as “him,” consistent with the grammatical gender of its Greco-Latinate name: Prosopo- (“face”) -graph- (“writer”) –us (second declension nominative masculine ending).  It held a pencil in its hand, and when someone sat down next to it, it would use this pencil—within full view of spectators—to trace an outline of the person’s profile.  The process was described variously as taking less than a minute, half a minute, or less than half a minute, but subjects had to hold perfectly still during that time: “The least movement on the part of the sitter will occasion the Automaton to shake his head, and the operation of taking the outline to be recommenced.  Advertisements emphasized that this work was carried out “without even touching the Face, and indeed “without touching, or having the slightest communication with the Person.  Daylight wasn’t necessary either, patrons were assured, so that likenesses could continue to be taken after sunset.  The proprietor never revealed the specific process used to capture people’s profiles, but it was claimed to be wholly mechanical, and hence superhuman in its accuracy.  Thus, Prosopographus was billed as “performing more perfect resemblances than is in the power of any living hand to trace,  and as “so contrived that by means of mechanism it is enabled to trace a more accurate and pleasing resemblance of any face that may be presented than could be produced through the agency of any LIVING artist whatever.

The basic portrait to which every visitor was entitled by default seems to have consisted of the profile painted in black, and some later advertisements specified that this included glass and a frame.  For a surcharge, however, the profiles could also be cut out, shaded, bronzed, or done up in full color, as well as mounted in a fancier frame, at prices up to thirty guineas if anyone cared to pay that much. The result, in any case, was something visually indistinguishable from a conventional silhouette portrait of the period.

And that complicates our present ability to identify surviving specimens of Prosopographus’s work.  According to Profiles of the Past, a website dedicated to the history of British silhouette portraiture, “very few silhouettes [by Prosopographus] are known today,” even though countless thousands are said to have been taken.  Technically, however, what’s rare is a silhouette that can be attributed to Prosopographus because it’s labeled that way on the back.  The few reported types of Prosopographus trade label are linked to just a few exhibition venues, so it may be that silhouettes taken in other places weren’t labeled, making them impossible to tell apart from “ordinary” silhouettes.  For all we know, nearly all unlabeled silhouettes of the 1820s and 1830s might be the work of Prosopographus, which would make them extremely common.  However, it’s only when there’s a label that we know for sure what we have.

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The Prosopographus portrait I recently acquired is one of those with the Halifax trade label and promotional text on the back, augmented by a handwritten inscription identifying its subject as Ellen Waterhouse.  The silhouette itself is a likeness of the basic type that was thrown in free with the price of admission: the profile painted in black, with just a few embellishments added in the same color to represent hair and veil.


See the full post by Patrick Feaster here.


See other early Robots in Art and Drawing Machines here.


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1916 – “King Grey” the Electric Titan – Fern Pieper (American)

I first saw this mentioned in David M. Earle's interesting book titled "Re-Covering Modernism: Pulps, Paperbacks, and the Prejudice of Form", but John Ptak's recent post reminded me of it. I have used his image of the prototype walking machine.

The model of King Grey, the Electric Titan.  Although called "Electric", the motive power is by two large 40 H.P. automobile engines. A smaller engine will generate electricity to be used for sensors and controls. See below article for further details.

Another source.
The Colac Herald [Victoria, Australia], 30 Jan 1918
ELECTRIC WAR TITANS.
THE FIRST MODEL ASTONISHED THE NATIVES.
It is highly improbable, as we have said before, that military "Tanks" will stop where they are. The invention is too revolutionary not to excite the interest of engineering experts, and, moreover, the field is so sure and promising that it must attract the creative. The ironclad commenced its career in much about the
same way. It was just an old wooden hulk cased in the railway rails of the day. The Tank is merely an armoured plus-motor-lorry on caterpillar wheels, which were originally devised for agricultural purposes.
Here is an invention, due to an American electrician, Mr. Vern Pieper. He has devised a wonderful walking giant! At the present moment, he has completed only the model, but the real giant-a nine foot marvel of steel plates, knuckles, and cog wheels-is now in the process of being forged.
The movement in the feet and legs in the little model is so perfect that his steps appear natural; he may be stopped standing on the toe of one foot and the heel of the other, or in almost any natural position that would he assumed by a human being.
When fully grown King Grey-as the inventor calls him-will be 9 feet tall; his weight will be 750 pounds. His anatomical proportions will be: distance from hip joint to the ground, 4 feet 9 inches; distance from toe of boot to rear of vehicle, 21 feet; foot 16 inches long; 7 inches wide; step, 42 inches. The legs will be weighted with mercury to maintain a low centre of gravity.
The chief achievements of King Grey will be drawing a vehicle weighing over 1,500 pounds, containing four persons, any distance desired. That is the hope of the inventor, and the hope is not beyond the realms of possibility.
An intricate mechanism is required to direct the movements of the giant. Besides the two 40-horse power automobile type engines required as propulsive force, a small 2-horse-power engine will be used to govern an electrical nervous system. This small engine will operate a set of feather clutches, controlled by the movement of an electric plumb-bob in the giants head. The bob, moving in accordance with the slope of the ground will cause the giant to lean forward when ascending a hill and backwards when descending.
King Grey will be caused to turn corners by shortening the stroke of the inside leg and lengthening the stroke of the outside one.
He will be connected to the vehicle he draws by two steel shafts, 5 inches in diameter and 8 feet long, bolted to his body at the hips; his hands will rest on the ends of the shafts, and it will appear as if he were a live man of extraordinary size, pulling the vehicle after the manner of a horse hitched to a dog cart.
Four sledge-like runners will be mounted under the car, one at each wheel, and at the slightest sign of a mechanical derangement that might tend to cause a wreck, the runners will automatically drop to the ground and the wheels at the same instant, rise from the ground. The car, thus converted into a sledge, will act as an enormous break and bring the machine to an instant stop.
The nation, says Mr. Cracker, that could put into the field a legion of steel mechanical giants-filled with men armed with guns-charging down over the hills, smashing with their huge feet through the feebly obstructing barbed wire, leaping the trenches, and massacring the helpless defenders, would, especially if the thing could be done by surprise, demoralize, and even rout a whole army. Other scientific miracles have been frequent. Why, it is asked by our authority, may not such a monster as the Electrical Titan be part of the mechanical equipment of the armies of the future ?– "Popular Science Siftings."

Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, June 22, 1914

EXHIBITING MECHANICAL MAN,
Fern Pieper Shows Electric Man Who Could Walk Long Distances If Anyone Wanted Him to Do it.
At the room on Third street, in the Wuerker building, where the International Correspondence School is conducting an exhibit,  Ernest Harlow, the local representative, today put on exhibition the mechanical man which was built by Fern Pieper, one of the pupils of the school. Mr. Pleper is a mechanical genius and in his spare time has perfected many curious mechanical devices. One of these is the mechanical man. He hasn't put a head on the man as all that is needed for the present is the legs-the motive device. He plans to construct a nine foot high man, if anybody would engage the services of such a man, and let the mechanical man walk to the San Francisco Exposition. A man of such size as Mr. Pieper proposes would be able to haul a real man in a cart behind, who could guide the brainless mechanical man.

Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, June 25, 1914

A great many interested spectators today at noon witnessed some of the performances of the mechanical man built by Ferdinand Pieper, and equipped by him with electrical contrivances and devices calculated to make him go some. He is unlike "Percy the Mechanism Man" of the funny papers a few years ago, in that his conduct is more orderly. Percy was continually doing things to prove himself a natural outlaw, and all of the machinery that caused him to do things, when a button was pressed, was inside of him.

Ferd's mechanism man is not operated altogether by inside machinery. There is some behind him that assists materially in boosting him along. He claims to do nothing but walk. He was allowed to walk alone and unguided today for a distance on the sidewalk on Belle street, and he did the deed well. Weston, O'Leary or any other champion walker would not be on it with the Alton Percy as far as endurance is concerned anyway, and he gets over the ground rapidly too. As a walking advertisement for some big concern, the Alton Percy would be a winner. He could walk from ocean to ocean and from "Greenland's icy mountains" to Huerta's mescal land without acquiring a corn on his foot or a stone bruise by a toe. The model is not a very large one, but the size of the one that would make the transcontinental trip could be regulated to suit. He could be twenty feet high if desired.

Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, November 17, 1916

The whimsical conceit of an Alton inventive genius – a mechanical man – something that was built more as a form of amusement, may become a means of destruction, is the prophecy of a writer who is telling the story about the creature of Fern Pieper's mind. The "Grey King" of Alton has been given much space in the December issue of the Illustrated World, which has just been received at the Mather Book store. In addition to the write-up, the front cover shows the Grey King in action in battle, spitting death and destruction to those in front and on either side of him.

The Grey King is an iron man invented by Fern Pieper, and the story in the Illustrated World which puts Fern and the King before the scientists and inventors of the world, was written by Herbert C. Crocker of Edwardsville. It tells how the model created interest and excitement a few years ago when the inventor sent it out walking through the streets of Alton. That was only a model. A real iron man is now being fashioned in a St. Louis foundry and will soon be ready for action. The Illustrated World calls the invention an electric Titan and elaborates on the possibilities of the invention. With a flock of such men equipped properly, Uncle Sam could send this terrible army against an enemy, and each member of the flock would walk unhesitatingly into the ranks of that same enemy, mowing them down as the harvester mows down grass, and nothing they could do could stop the destruction or disable the walking iron men until the electrical apparatus that guided them broke or run down.

The article is certain to give Alton wide publicity, and it will give Fern Pieper a little, at least, of the credit that is due him. He is an inventor of great ability and merit, and a dreamer who will live to see some of his cherished dreams come true. Machines in war in Europe are the agencies winning the most battles, and it is not a far cry to equipping these machine-made iron men of Pieper's designing with bullet propelling apparatus. Iron that can be made to walk around like a man can be fixed to shoot like a man and with powers and immunity no mortal possesses.

Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, April 20, 1917

WHY NOT TRY A FLOCK OF THESE
Alton Iron Men as Destroyers In France, and Other Fighting Countries In Europe?
Several months ago the Telegraph published an account of the construction by Fern Pieper of a massive iron or steel man, who was equipped with internal machinery that kept him moving steadily in which ever direction he was started.
It was constructed by Mr. Pieper for advertising purposes or a commercial traveller, as it were, but some of the leading magazines of the country took the matter up and pointed out the possibilities of use and destruction the Pieper iron man could become in case the U. S. went to war with any other nation. The man's internal apparatus, it is pointed out in addition to the motive power (electric) could be equipped with rapid fire guns or shells, and the man or a flock of such men could be turned loose out the enemy and their advance could not be stopped or the work of destruction prevented by an army. The iron men would continue to advance and pour fire out of the port holes provided until the electric apparatus run down, while shot or shell of the enemy's army would have little or no effect on the iron men.

Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, April 13, 1918

MECHANICAL MAN BREAKS DOWN ON TRYOUT.
Man Who Did Not Understand Mechanism Got Machinery Out of Order and He Had To Be Pushed Home.
An "iron man" who can walk and may be a regular Percy, the mechanical man, was taken out for a walk Friday afternoon, by a man from St. Louis, who wanted to test out the man prior to closing a contract to have him rigged up to help roll Liberty Loan bonds. The man was in a shed at the home of Chas. Oehler, who has been perfecting the ground work laid by Fern Pieper, whose ideas originated the walking mechanical man. The St Louis man could not wait, it is reported, until Mr. Oehler could be found to take the man out for a walk and the result was a crank broke in the mechanism of the man. The mechanical man would not walk any further. A new crank was made and that was broken, too. Something had gone wrong. The mechanical man was at last pushed by six other men back to his shed where he will stay awhile. It was planned to use the man in parades to advertise the Liberty Loan. He could not be put in shape for use in Alton next Wednesday, it is feared, but the St. Louis man was so attracted by the possibilities of the man he wanted to use him in a hurry. The "man" walked to Ninth and Alby streets, where he stuck. He had previously been out walking on the streets at midnight, so he would attract less attention.

See here for images of the revised giant pulling a "Liberty" boat.


See other Steam Men and early Walking Machines here.

See other early Humanoid Robots here.


1979 – “Tomaton” the Robot – Lenny Schectman (American)

Ft. Lauderdale – TOMATON and his creator Lenny Schectman. July 1979.
Tomaton, short for Automaton, is 6-foot tall.
Lenny Schectman became involved in robotics mainly because of his interest in technology allowing the brain to be tapped to signal function in limbs of paraplegics and quadraplegics. He wanted to enter the biomedical engineering field but lacked the proper degrees. The 33-year-old bachelor explained he made the first 14-inch tabletop robot at age 19 as a conversation piece for parties. His next was five feet tall. But because robots were not "in", he ditched it until deciding to build Tomaton in 1979.
Now the cement truck driver spend countless hours foraging in hardwarw stores for assorted wires, light bulbs, aluminum screening, copper rings and other robot-related paraphernalia.
Extract from Boca Raton News, October 3, 1983.
Control Box for TOMATON.

Schectman later built another robot called "Apollo" around 1983.

Apollo is 100-pounds in weight, 4-foot 3-inches high. Apollo rolls on wheels and its head revolves and its chest lights up. Laser-treated plexiglas gave the red and gold lights in its peaked head a prism effect. Apollo required 2,500 hours to build and cost [in 1983] $10,000 in parts.
 
I do not have a good image of Apollo, and very little information about Tomaton. Please contact me if you have further information.

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