The most influential people in contemporary robotics

Before analyzing who are the most famous people in robotics today, we might define what exactly this term is coined Isaac Asimov as a science that studies robots. This word was first used in 1920 by a writer Karel Capek originating from the Czech word robotwhich means servitude or forced labor.

What is robotics and how does it differ from artificial intelligence?

Robotics is understood as a discipline responsible for the construction of machines capable of automating tasks in which experts create, program and control these elements to carry out the development of certain tasks and skills.

Although Robotics and artificial intelligence are related, they should not be confusedthe main difference between the two is found in approach.

Robotics focuses on manipulating a physical domain, while AI is focused on allowing a robot to move based on prior learning and not based on established instructions to perform a specific task. Thus, an AI-based robot could adapt to tasks based on this learning, and a programmed robot could only perform tasks for which it was configured.

Now let’s look at some of the most important characters. robotics influencersboth from a practical and a theoretical point of view.

Leonardo Torres Quevedo

Spaniard Leonardo Torres Quevedo (1852-1936) is known in many fields and for some milestones in world engineering, such as Spanish Aerocar¸ the oldest operating cable car or air ferry in the world at Niagara Falls.

In the field of robotics, it is known for having been built in 1912 Chess player, an automaton believed to be the first capable of playing chess in history, an experimental model introduced in 1914 in Paris. As early as 1920, he built a second version that contained significant improvements in presentation, although from an automatic point of view, no changes.

As stated in Torres Quevedo Museum website“chess players do not play a complete game, but rather an endgame of rook and king against king. The chess player drives the white pieces and their movement is based on a complicated mechanism consisting of axes, drums… The second chess player worked through electromagnets placed under the board, so the pieces gave the impression of moving independently, which caused a great impact on the public.”

In short, Torres Quevedo “built chess players to demonstrate his idea that the intellectual capacity of machines must be increased so that they can replace humans in some jobs, until then reserved for human intelligence”.

George Devol and Joseph F. Engelberger

ON George Charles Devol already (1912-2011). Joseph Frederick Engelberger (1925-2015) are believed to be the father Industrial robotics.

In 1954, Devol conceived the idea of ​​a device for the programmed transfer of objects, with which he replaced the programmable manipulator, considered the ancestor of the industrial robot.

Engelberger founded Unimation Inc in 1956, considered the first company in the world to develop robotics.

This company made theirs the first robotic arm After improving George Devola’s design and despite the project’s losses, he opened the door to selling to General Motors.

The device weighed 1,800 kilos and its function was to lift and stack large pieces of hot metal.

The car company installed this arm in one of its factories in 1961, with a glimpse of the transformation it would mean in the manufacturing model of the industry, which led to Chrysler and Ford also acquiring robotic arms shortly after.

On the other hand, 1978 saw the birth of Devol’s first programmable robot called PUMA (Programmable Universal Machine for Assembly). The device was able to move an object and place it in any orientation and is the basis of most current robots.

Interestingly, in 1997 Engelberger received the Japan Science and Technology Advancement Award for the contribution of industrial robots to the so-called Japanese miracle that began in the 1960s.

Isaac Asimov

Isaac Asimov (1919 or 1920-1992) was a biochemist who distinguished himself in the field of literature by publishing very widely works of science fiction, history and popular science.

Asimov stated similarly three laws of roboticsethical basis for the subsequent development of autonomous systems:

  • A robot will not harm a person, nor will it allow a person to be harmed by its inaction.
  • A robot must follow orders given by human beings, except those that conflict with the first law.
  • A robot must protect its own existence to the extent that this protection does not conflict with the first or second law.

These three laws appeared for the first time in his work Vicious circle (from 1942) and served as standards for robots that had the ability to act independently in their stories.

Victor Scheinman

Victor Scheinman (1942-2016) invented the Stanford arm in 1969, a six-axis, fully electric articulated robot, a technology for the use of robots in assembly and welding.

As a teenager, Scheinman designed and built a voice-operated typewriter.

Also Canada

Also Canada (1945) became famous for building the first robotic arm in the early 1980s with motors installed directly in its joint, giving it much greater speed and accuracy than its predecessors.

Marc Raibert

Marc Raibert (1949) co-founded Boston Dynamics in 1992 and, with other colleagues, created Big Dog and the DARPA Robotics Challenge, developing robots that ran and maneuvered like animals.

The dog sticks out pointan intelligent robot that went on sale in 2020 in the US for $74,500 and whose brain consists of artificial intelligence algorithms capable of working autonomously, detecting problems and even predicting them.

Mark Tilden

Mark Tilden (1961) created RoboSapien in 2004, a robot with which he achieved a great deal of recognition and sold nearly two million units.

It is a remote-controlled human-shaped robot toy that has almost 70 pre-programmed functions and more than 80 steps to program movements, can walk without wheels and even pick up objects with its hands and throw them.


From the early 20th century to the early 21st century, we have seen robotics evolve to achieve increasingly complex mechanisms that have elements incorporated to make robots more sophisticated.

Since industrial robotics began to expand in the mid-20th century until its current interaction with artificial intelligence, robotics is a part of our daily lives, helping us in the development of daily tasks that cover not only the industrial sector, but also reach into services, or to social.

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