A robot is a machine—especially one programmable by a computer—capable of carrying out a complex series of actions automatically. A robot can be guided by an external control device, or the control may be embedded within. Robots may be constructed to evoke human form, but most robots are task-performing machines, designed with an emphasis on stark functionality, rather than expressive aesthetics.
From the time of ancient civilization, there have been many accounts of user-configurable automated devices and even automata resembling humans and other animals, designed primarily as entertainment. As mechanical techniques developed through the Industrial age, there appeared more practical applications such as automated machines, remote-control and wireless remote-control.
The term comes from a Slavic root, robot-, with meanings associated with labor. The word 'robot' was first used to denote a fictional humanoid in a 1920 Czech-language play R.U.R. (Rossumovi Univerzální Roboti – Rossum's Universal Robots) by Karel ?apek, though it was Karel's brother Josef ?apek who was the word's true inventor. In 1928, one of the first humanoid robots, Eric, was exhibited at the annual exhibition of the Model Engineers Society in London, where it delivered a speech. Invented by W. H. Richards, the robot's frame consisted of an aluminium body of armour with eleven electromagnets and one motor powered by a twelve-volt power source. The robot could move its hands and head and could be controlled through remote control or voice control. Both Eric and his "brother" George (see picture above) toured the world.
Westinghouse Electric Corporation built Televox in 1926; it was a cardboard cutout connected to various devices which users could turn on and off. In 1939, the humanoid robot known as Elektro was debuted at the 1939 New York World's Fair. Seven feet tall (2.1 m) and weighing 265 pounds (120.2 kg), it could walk by voice command, speak about 700 words (using a 78-rpm record player), smoke cigarettes, blow up balloons, and move its head and arms. The body consisted of a steel gear, cam and motor skeleton covered by an aluminum skin. In 1928, Japan's first robot, Gakutensoku, was designed and constructed by biologist Makoto Nishimura.