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Artificial intelligence Monday, 10 September, 2001, 10:42 GMT 11:42 UK
Timeline: Real robots
Robots are not new. They have been around for centuries in various forms. Here's a brief overview of the development of both robots and computers.

400 BC Philosopher and mathematician Archytas of Tarentum built a wooden dove that could flap its wings and fly.

Early 16th Century Hans Bullmann creates the first androids - simulated people that can play musical instruments for the delight of paying customers.

1533 In his laboratory at Nuremburg, scholar Johann Müller, aka Regiomontanus, is reputed to have created an iron fly and an artificial eagle, both of which could take to the air.

1543 In England, John Dee creates a wooden beetle that can fly for an undergraduate production of Aristophanes' Pax.

1725 At the Heilbrunn chateau in Germany, a mechanical theatre is created featuring 119 animated figures that perform a play about village life to the accompaniment of a water-powered organ.

While training as a Jesuit, Jacques Vaucanson creates flying angels which cause him to be thrown out of the order.

An automatic duck
Inside Vaucanson's duck
1737 Vaucanson creates a mechanical musician that can play 11 different tunes. He also creates an automatic duck that can drink, eat, paddle in water, digest and excrete like a real duck.

1801 Joseph-Marie Jacquard invents a method of controlling looms using cards with holes punched in them.

1833 Charles Babbage begins work on the Analytical Engine - one of the first computational machines.

1847 George Boole invents a symbolic logic that would later become widely used in computers.

1888 Nikola Tesla develops the first alternating-current induction motor.

1921 Czech author Karel Capek publishes the play R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots), in which human-like machines are create to replace human workers.

1936 Alan Turing completes his seminal paper On Computable Numbers, which paves the way for modern computers.

1942 Isaac Asimov writes Runaround in which he first sets out the three laws of robotics.

1943 Warren McCulloch and Walter Pitts do pioneering work on neural networks that can learn about the world in much the same way that we do.

1943 Colossus, the world's first electronic computer, is built in Britain by a team of mathematicians, electrical engineers and intelligence agents to crack Nazi codes.

Inside the Eniac computer
1945 Eniac, which set the framework for post-war mainframes, is switched on.

1948-9 British robotics pioneer William Grey Walter creates autonomous machines called Elmer and Elsie that mimic lifelike behaviour with very simple circuitry.

1950 Alan Turing proposes the Turing Test to decide if a computer is exhibiting intelligent behaviour.

1954 George Devol and Joe Engleberger create the world's first industrial robots.

1956 Marvin Minsky and John McCarthy organise a conference in Dartmouth, Massachusetts, US, which brings together the leading lights in the field of robotics and machine research. The conference coins the phrase "artificial intelligence".

1966 The Stanford Research Institute creates Shakey, the first mobile robot that can reason about its surroundings. Five years later, funding is cancelled when the shortcomings of the machine become apparent.

1973 The AI department at Edinburgh, UK, shows off Freddy II, a robot that could assemble objects automatically from a heap of parts.

1975 Victor Scheinman develops the Programmable Universal Manipulation Arm (Puma), which becomes widely used in industrial robots.

1979 Hans Moravec creates the Stanford Cart, an autonomous vehicle that can navigate across a room full of obstacles.

Alan Turing
Alan Turing - father of computers and AI
1980s Expert systems, software programs that encapsulate specialist knowledge, become widely used this decade.

1984 Doug Lenat kicks off the Cyc project to create a database of common sense to help robots understand our world.

1987 Automated selling of shares almost causes a stock market meltdown.

1989 MIT AI Lab director Rodney Brooks publishes a seminal paper entitled Fast, Cheap and Out of Control, which kicks off a new era in robot making. Academics start to concentrate on small, smart useful robots rather than simulated people.

Genghis, one of the first walking robots created by the mobile robots lab at MIT, makes its debut.

1994 A robot called Dante II, built by scientists from Carnegie Mellon, strolls around the interior of the Mount Spurr volcano in Alaska, US, collecting samples of volcanic gases as it goes.

1996 A robo-tuna developed by MIT scientist Michael S. Triantafyllou is tested in a water tank.

Honda unveils the P-2 (prototype 2), a humanoid robot that can walk, climb stairs and carry loads.

1997 Smart computer programs become widely used on the web to ferret out information.

May World chess champion Garry Kasparov loses to IBM's Deep Blue supercomputer.

July Nasa's pathfinder spacecraft touches down on Mars. Soon after, it releases the Sojourner robot rover that trundles about the planet's surface carrying out science experiments for the space agency.

The first RoboCup football tournament is held in Nagoya, Japan.

August Cynthia Breazeal at MIT starts work on the Kismet robot, which can mimic the emotional range of a baby.

Scottish hotel owner Campbell Aird is fitted with the world's first bionic arm.

October Nasa launches the Deep Space 1 autonomous spacecraft which will test technologies to be used in future missions crewed and conducted solely by robots.

Aibo: K9, the next generation
May Sony releases the first Aibo electronic dogs that sell out within 20 minutes of going on sale.

Personal Robots releases the Cye robot that can be used to perform a variety of household chores.

October The UN estimates that there are 742,500 industrial robots in use worldwide. More than half of these are being used in Japan.

November Computational neurobiologist Sandro Mussa-Ivaldi, from the Northwestern University Medical School in Chicago, US, hooks up a lamprey brain to sensors in order to control a robot.

April The Global Hawk robotic spyplane charts its own course over a distance of 13,000 km (8,000 miles) between California, US, and Southern Australia.

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