The world-renowned Science Museum is rebuilding one of the world’s first ever robots, named Eric. It has launched a Kickstarter campaign aimed at bringing back the UK’s earliest robot, and hopes to once more exhibit and take him on a global tour, as he did nearly 90 years ago.
In 1928, Captain W H Richards and A H Reffell built Eric, one of the world’s first ever robots, created less than a decade after the word robot was first used. The quintessential image of a robot, Eric first publicly performed on September 20th 1928, making his debut by giving the opening speech at the Society of Model Engineers’ annual exhibition.
The moving, talking mechanised man was built after the Duke of York, who had originally been intended to open the exhibition, declined the invitation, prompting Captain Richards to decide that “it is a mechanical show, let us have a mechanical man to open it.”
Eric weighed just over 45 kilograms and had an armour plated chest, legs and arms, all made from aluminium. On his chest, the letters RUR were written, the initials for Rossumovi Univerzální Roboti (Rossum’s Universal Robots). The RUR initials arose from a play of the same name, written in 1920 by Czech writer Karel Čapek, and the first introduction of the word robot to the English language.
Eric was not without flash either, with light bulbs for eyes and capable of running a 35,000 volt charge to produce blue sparks from his teeth.
The impressive nature of the automaton had him taken on a global tour alongside his makers, travelling across the UK, the US and Europe to meet dignitaries, celebrities and crowds of all kinds.
Then, mysteriously, Eric disappeared. However, with the help of a Kickstarter campaign, he can be brought back. In collaboration with the Science Museum, expert roboticist Giles Walker, working in part from archive materials and discussions with Science Museum curator Ben Russell, will rebuild Eric in the UK.
The Museum stumbled across Eric’s story while researching their upcoming Robots exhibition and, if the campaign is successfully funded, the rebuilt Eric will star in the exhibition in February 2017.
Before that, there will be a public display in October 2016 that will allow everyone to see the robot, for free, for a whole month. More than that though, just as he did at the time of his original creation, Eric will travel the world with the exhibition, before returning to the Museum as part of its permanent collection.