Posts Tagged ‘Torres y Quevedo’

Grey Walter’s Tortoises – the video clips

In my research for all things Grey Walter and his tortoises, I have uncovered five (5) video clips available on the internet.

Of the five, I have downloaded four of them, the 5th has been allusive for some time, having not been able to re-locate it again after spending many hours trying. It is not so bad, as this video clip is a newsreel clip of the IBM exhibition "A Computer Perspective" and is a walk-by of the static model. I took a still image of it at the time, though.

The other four I will try to re-locate on the web as I did not keep the link when I downloaded them sometime ago.

When I describe tortoise behaviours in a future post, I will refer to these video clips.

(not re-located on yet!)

A "Computer Perspective" film was produced (1971). Its been loaded into Youtube by the Eames Office. Thanks to Domenico in notifying me of this. The  tortoise is 7:22sec into the  clip.


Bristol's Robot Tortoises Have Minds Of Their Own

In a simple villa on the outskirts of Bristol lives Dr. Grey Walter, a neurologist, who makes robots as a hobby. They are small and he doesn't dress them up to look like men – he calls them tortoises. And so cunningly have their insides been designed that they respond to the stimuli of light and touch in a completely life-like manner. This model is named Elsie and she "sees" out of a photo-electric cell which rotates about her body. When light strikes the cell driving and steering mechanisms send her hurrying towards it. If she brushes against any objects in her path, contacts are operated which turn the steering away, and so, automatically, she takes avoiding action. Mrs. Walter's pet is Elmer. Elsie's brother, in the darker vest. He works in exactly the same way. Dr. Walter says that his electronic toys work exactly as though they have a simple two-cell nervous system, and that with more cells, they would be able to do many more tricks. Already Elsie has one up on Elmer. When her batteries begin to fail, she automatically runs home to her kennel for charging up, and in consequence can lead a much gayer life.


Now meet Dr Grey Walter of Britain . Why the torch? Well, here's the reason – its Toby, a mechanical tortoise with an electronic brain which functions like the human mind. Toby's  head, or rather 'magic-eye' is a photo-electric cell constantly revolving until it picks up the strongest source of light, to which it is then attracted. In this case an ordinary electric torch guides the mechanical tortoise in any direction its inventor chooses. It can also negotiate obstacles.  When it hits an object, the pressure on the shell causes a short circuit of the photo-electric cell mechanism, and the tortoise moves at random until it is free of the obstacle. With a stronger source of light placed in position, Toby is attracted to the lamp  in the same way as a moth is attracted by light. Now, the front wheel of the tricycle undercarriage which is coupled to the photo-electric cell motor is turning on its axle while its two back wheels remain static and the tortoise attempts to get still closer to the light. A small syringe is being used to inflate the tyres, and with its shell removed, the inner workings of the complicated mechanism of Dr Walter's brain-child and the immediate affect of light on the magic-eye can be seen. Toby's probably getting tired and hungry by now for light to Toby is like food to any ordinary animal. And that light in his hutch never fails to bring him home,  without a torch, too.

Note: It is interesting that the tortoise is called "Toby" by the narrator. I don't know if this is journalistic license or whether, in fact, after the "CORA" circuit was cut out, the tortoise was actually called "Toby" thereafter.

This segment is from the movie "Future Shock". It is 17:27 minutes in. The unit next to the tortoise is not CORA, but another unidentified model, used as a prop for obstacle avoidance.

TRANSCRIPT: [Orson Wells – Narrator]

Step by step, the body parts grow disposable-like products we use and discard. This quaint English village, a remnant of permanence in a    future-shocked world  is the home of neurophysiologist  Grey Walter . He's one of the many scientists leading us towards the ultimate replacement –  Artificial Intelligence. Twenty-five years ago he pioneered the development of behaviour machines.

[WGW] This looks rather as though it was a childs'  toy, and I suppose it might be, but in fact it's a rather serious model of my ideas of behaviour. And it behaves in a complex way with all kinds of behaviour modes only having two elements compared with our ten billion in our brains, but its behaviour is finely?  complex. Now you see it hesitating a moment,  and then the body out of ?  and on its way slowly and by a rather devious path, right into its hutch down here. And so, rather like us, it has a sense of ?? which although its such a very simple  toy, but not really just a toy, a model of behaviour . END

(in French)

Site is quirky.  You need to register to view the clip. Last time I tried registration took around 24 hours. If you still can't see it in the English version, use the French version. Search criteria is CONGRÈS DE LA CYBERNÉTIQUE TORTUE . Date of clip = 18/01/1951: running time =
57 secs.  Clip also shows the chess automaton of Torres y Quevedo.

CHALLENGE: If a French speaking person would like to offer a translated transcript, I will publish it here.

See also my other posts on Grey Walter and his Tortoises here.


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