Early robots could smoke cigarettes, pour tea...and shoot guns

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1934

Shoppers listen to a fortune-telling robot in Selfridges department store in London.

Image: London Express/Getty Images

The word “robot” first entered the public imagination in 1921, when it was coined by Czech writer Karel Capek in his play R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots). Derived from the Czech word “robota,” meaning “compulsory labor,” the robots in Capek’s play revolutionize the economy with their work, but eventually take over the world and cause the extinction of the human race.

The idea of creating autonomous humanoid machines has excited inventors for centuries — even Aristotle speculated about building a mechanical man. With advances in electronics and radio control in the 20th century, they finally started to emerge. Read more…

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