The earliest automata were recorded in the third century B.C.E. They were often self propelled human figurines or animals. The early roboticists, mechanics, and clockmakers often made bird automata. There are famous preening peacocks, singing larks, and silver swimming swans. You can still see remnants of these early mechanical birds in modern cuckoo clocks.
The most amazing creations, though, were the mannequins that moved. Ancient engineers made metal beings who sang, served tea, drew elaborate pictures, wrote poems, and there was even one controversial one who supposedly played chess.
Here are some of my favorite automata:
- The ancient Chinese artificer Yan Shi created a mechanical man who winked and flirted with court ladies.
- The Muslim inventor Al-Jazari created a boat full of tiny musicians that entertained guests at parties.
- Leonardo da Vinci’s notebook has plans for a knight that could sit up and wave its arms.
- Mathematician Johannes Müller von Königsberg created an eagle made of iron that could fly.
- The magician John Dee manufactured a wooden beetle that buzzed in the air of Elizabeth I’s court.
- Inventor Jacques de Vaucanson’s Digesting Duck could eat and digest grain, leaving duck pellets behind.
- Japanese engineer Hisashige Tanaka created little men who could draw and fire arrows at a target.
I hope you'll be check out my story about a lonely roboticist and his robot companion that plays matchmaker in THE BREAK-IN: Dreamspinner Press | Amazon | Barnes and Noble | All Romance ebooks