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Entries in personal robots (7)

Friday
Jan282011

Watching Television With My Robot Butler (1932)

The December 4, 1932 San Antonio Light (San Antonio, TX) ran this illustration accompanying a piece titled, "Looking Ahead Another 50 Years." 

TELEVISION -- The husband at home in bed is able to sweep the mechanical eye through the shopping district and see what his wife is doing. He also has all sorts of appliances for supplying almost anything he needs, including a robot valet, who is seen approaching with his master's suit of clothes.

Early visions of television often imagined live broadcasting without any narrative arc, like from this 1930's collectible card that we looked at a few months back.

Previously on Paleofuture:

Sunday
Apr252010

Tommy Edison Builds Secretary Knox a Robot (1909)

The only thing I might love more than robots of the 1920s and 30s are robots from before the word "robot" was coined in 1922.

Now, I won't pretend to understand what's going on in this illustration. Like most editorial cartoons that I stumble upon while searching newspaper archives, I have no idea what's happening here with Secretary Knox and his mechanical, moustachioed man of political obfuscation. Though, on its surface, we might call this "same as it ever was."

Source: October 22, 1909 San Antonio Light and Gazette (San Antonio, TX)

 

Previously on Paleo-Future:

 

Wednesday
Jan272010

Android Love of the Future (1982)

The June 2, 1982 Washington Post ran a short piece about lovebots of the future. The article by Stephanie Mansfield predicts androids would be on the market by the mid-1990s, and likely revolutionize the way people looked at sexual relations.  

Arthur Harkins, director of the graduate program in futures research at the University of Minnesota, is even quoted as saying that android-human relationships might be treated as common-law marriages. I suppose as long as people didn't get gay-robo-married the U.S. would be okay with that. I can hear the asinine protest chants already, "it's WALL-E and EVE, not Elektro and Steve!" 

The entire piece appears below.

He comes home every night, grabs a beer and falls asleep in front of the television. You might as well be married to a robot, you say. Well, by the year 2000, you could be.

He may even look like Cary Grant, talk about white-water rafting, be able to fix a drink and possibly even be good in bed," says Arthur Harkins, director of the graduate program in futures research at the University of Minnesota.

"One of the things we're seeing now is that people are shopping for other people the way they'd shop for an appliance," he says, citing the proliferation of computerized dating services, explicitly worded personal want ads and marriage brokers. "You're buying something that makes you happy."

Domestic robot systems are expected to come on the market by the mid-1990s, according to Harkins, and sell for several thousand dollars. These highly sophisticated androids can be programmed to offer a wide range of human personality traits. ("We can even make them neurotic") and are likely to be purchased by "people who have difficulty opening up to other human being," he says.

These surrogate spouses would be beneficial to very lonely people.

But can you fall in love with a robot? "Why not?" says Harkins, citing a bedridden hospital patient. "Along comes this wonderful android who doesn't care a bit about that, whereas other human beings may not be so inclined."

The union between man and machine would not be recognized as legal, Harkins says, but perhaps could be treated as a common-law marriage. And there's no question of a messy divorce. "Just trade it in, I suppose," the scientist says.

Another example of future schlock was the robot pets offered by Neiman-Marcus last Christmas, which Harkins says only strengthens his theory that people today want certainty. "They want somebody predictable," he says.

But Harkins says he doesn't want to trade in his own wife for a robot -- just yet. Not even, he fantasizes, "a Margot Kidder robot."

"I'd be bored stiff," he says. "But I may get to be 70 years old and look at a Mae West robot with a great deal of interest."

 

Previously on Paleo-Future:

 

Saturday
Jan232010

Mechanical Wonder Maiden (1930)

Much like her robotic brother Herbert Televox, robot Miss Katrina Van Televox toured the country demonstrating Westinghouse products. According to this ad in the October 3, 1930 Altoona Mirror (Altoona, PA) Miss Van Televox talks, answers the phone, runs a vacuum cleaner and makes coffee.

Adding the supposed cost of this robot to the ad, $22,000, was yet another way to give that feeling of inevitability which pops up repeatedly in 1930's discussions of robots.

Katrina talks... answers the phone... runs a vacuum cleaner... makes coffee and toast... turns the lights on and off and does it all willingly at command from Mr. T. Barnard the Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Expert who is accompanying her on her tour. The audience will also assist Mr. Barnard in making Katrina work. Her appearance here at The American Legion Home is her first in Altoona and women of this city are cordially invited by the Penn Central Light & Power Co., sponsors of her visit, to attend her personal appearance.

Katrina is chief demonstrator of the famous Westinghouse Flavor Zone range and is the sister of Herbert Televox famous metal man who has shown before many scientific gatherings. As Katrina's stay in Altoona is limited, The Penn Central Company ask all who wish to view these amazing demonstrations to plan their visit early. The admission is Free.

 

Previously on Paleo-Future:

 

Sunday
Jul262009

Robots for Romantic Old Maids (1928)

The July 1, 1928 San Antonio Light (San Antonio, TX) ran a syndicated story titled, "Romantic Old Maids Can Hear the Words of Love They Long For."

The excerpt below tells the tale of a futuristic unmarried woman who keeps a robot under her bed. This automated man, which was naturally all the rage in 1929, gives her all the love and attention no "mortal man" will give her. The woman, even in such a contrived environment, must feign astonishment that a "man" would be in her bedroom.

I found it interesting that an article from the 1920s would mention the existence of gigolos (who of course, only exist in Europe). The article explains that such gigolos, who "pay attention" to old and unattractive ladies of wealth, will now be put out of work by these gear-driven casanovas. And here you thought the idea of sexbots was new...

At the same rate of progress it should not require more than a decade or so before a person can go to a store and pick out from the show case most any kind of automatic man or woman he or she might fancy -- an ideal servant or workman who would ask no food or wages but a little current and an occasional drop of oil; or even a flattering admirer could be purchased who would whisper in a neglected wife's ear, all the nice things that a busy husband forgets to say.

In this happy future, no old maid need look under the bed for a man, in vain. He would always be there and such a nice man, a perfect imitation of her favorite matinee idol or film star, with blond or dark hair, moustache or clean shaven, anything her heart desired. These would be stock models, turned out in quantity production and quite reasonable in price. This year probably a "Lindy" model would have been a big seller. Or, if the customer is willing to pay a little more and have one made to order, the manufacturer might send artists and photographers to some notorious lounge-lizard and deliver a perfect counterfeit of him. She could order the late Rudolf Valentine's face and John Barrymore's voice or most any other combination.

The present crude automations can be made to start on most any combination of tones, therefore the man under the bed might be set to react at the words:

"Sir! What are you doing there?"

At that cue he would crawl out and on bended knees, pour out words from 1,000 feet of phonofilm, revealing his hopeless passion for the love-starved old maid, telling her how beautiful she is and all the other sweet things that somebody out to have said but no mortal had bothered to.

When she tired of hearing this over and over, a word of encouragement would be the end to slide into place in his manly chest, another reel and at the same time he could sit beside her on the couch or take her on his substantial knees, embracing her with a tireless mechanical arm. The introduction of this kind of automation would throw out of work a small army of "gigolos," young men who in Europe, pay attention to old and unattractive ladies of wealth, for a consideration.

You can read the entire article here.

Previously on Paleo-Future:

 

Tuesday
Jun162009

Manufactured Working Robots (1980s)

DC-1: Drink Caddy Robot (1979) - Android Amusement Corp


The Robot Exhibit: History, Fantasy and Reality was at the American Craft Museum (now the Museum of Arts and Design) from January 13, 1984 - May 11, 1984. These six robots appeared as the "manufactured working robots" of the exhibit and are featured in the book The Robot Exhibit: History, Fantasy and Reality. The manufactured robots were differentiated from the "handmade working robots" in that they were manufactured by corporations in an effort to educate, entertain or perform a specific function.

These robots seem to demonstrate the way in which we believed robots would evolve; as domestic servants, meant to cater to our needs through very literal, real-world applications. "Bring me another drink, TOT!"

It appears that some of the companies that produced these robots, like RB Robotics, are still around.

 

Topo (1983) - Androbot, Inc.


ComRo I (1981) - ComRo, Inc.


Tot (1982) - ComRo Inc.


Robocycle (1983) - Robot Repair (Sacramento, CA)


RB5X: The Intelligent Robot (1982) - RB Robot Corporation

 

Previously on Paleo-Future:

 

Tuesday
Nov112008

The Universal Writing Formula for Futurism


I can't believe it took me this long, but I figured out the universal writing formula for futurism! It just clicked after reading a 1980s newspaper article about robots! Let me know what I'm missing:

  • Imagine [ten/twenty/fifty] years in the future.
  • Your [car/toaster/robot] speaks to you.
  • No, it's not your [friend/mom/crazy fever dream].
  • Your life just got better* with technology!

[*If article appears between 1971 and 1979 replace "better" with "shitty in the worst way"]

 

The December 8, 1985 Syracuse Herald Journal (Syracuse, NY) ran a piece about the personal robots of the future which uses this formula. The excerpt below quotes Nelson Winkless, author of the 1984 book, If I Had a Robot.

Imagine driving down the highway 10 or 20 years from now.

 

Suddenly, a small voice says, "You haven't called your mother lately. Don't you think you'd better call her today?"

No, it's not your conscience. It's your own personal robot, a funny little creature that keeps track of your obligations and watches out for you.

Of course, no one really knows what robots of the future will do to make your life easier. But a New Mexico robotics expert and author, Nelson Winkless, expects them to be more than mechanical housekeepers.

"Before we have robots that will do windows, we're going to have self-cleaning windows," he said, in a telephone interview from Corales, N.M. "I expect them to be useful in ways yet unanticipated.

"Suppose you had this little guy bumbling after you, keeping track of things. You may come to a corner and he'll say, 'Why don't you slow down and watch out here?'" says Winkless, who wrote "If I Had a Robot: What to Expect of the Personal Robot" (Dilithium Press, $9.95).

"We have just gotten to the point where we have (robots) that operate intuitively. They look at information and say, 'In all of my experience in life, what does this remind me of most?' They can see opportunities and problems and point them out."

Joe Herrera, robot product manager for Tomy Corp., in Carson, Calif., thinks there will be "a robot in every garage" by the year 2000.

"One robot for the home may be able to wash your car and tell the kids stories," says Herrera, whose company manufactures robot toys.

"Right now, personal robots are in the same stage handheld calculators were 10 years ago. But every year, we're learning more and more."


Read more:
If I Had a Robot (1984)
Newton the Household Robot (1989)
The Future of Personal Robots (1986)
Robo-Shop (1989)
Japanese Retail Robots (1986)
In a Cashless Future, Robots Will Cook (1996)