A brief history of robotics - a timeline of key achievements in the fields of robotics and AI, from Azimov to AlphaGo

Scott Carey
Scott Carey

Scott Carey

Scott is online editor at Techworld and ComputerworldUK.

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The history of robotics, if you want to really stretch it, can be traced back to the Greek philosopher Aristotle speaking about automated tools, all the way through to Henry Ford's Model T assembly line.

However, just for clarity, here is how Merriam-Webster defines a robot:

1a : a machine that looks like a human being and performs various complex acts (such as walking or talking) of a human being; also : a similar but fictional machine whose lack of capacity for human emotions is often emphasised
b : an efficient insensitive person who functions automatically
2: a device that automatically performs complicated often repetitive tasks
3: a mechanism guided by automatic controls

It's tempting to think of the history of robotics as linear, going from robotic arms constructing cars (definition 2), to humanoids capable of detecting its surroundings (3) and culminating in machines that can solve problems and defeat humans at their own games (1a). However, the timeline of robotics isn't that simple.

Here are some landmarks in the development of robotics through the past century, from industrial robotic arms to complex artificial intelligence.

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