UK Wants To Bring Back To Life Eric, Grandfather Of Robots: Here's How You Can Help


Today, the field of robotics is thriving.

There exists a robotic surgeon that successfully performed an operation on pig intestine; China's new interactive and completely lifelike robot named Jiajia and a bipedal robot that is capable of climbing stairs and overcoming hurdles, among many examples.

In other words, robots have become ubiquitous in countries that can afford to develop them.

In 1928, however, things were different. The same year Scottish biologist Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin, the United Kingdom and several western countries saw the development of Eric the Robot.

The Original Man Of Steel

Considered as the "Grandfather of Robots," Eric was an aluminum-clad automaton that became a sensation in Europe and the United States because he could speak and move around.

Eric the Robot became one of the first robots that travelled all over the world, as well as the first robot built in the UK. The robot weighed 45 kilograms (99 pounds), was about 150 centimeters (5 feet) in height and was enhanced by 35,000 volts of electricity.

Eric could look right and left, as well as make arm gestures. He particularly shocked the crowds when he first stood up and spoke for 4 minutes - with sparks shooting out of his mouth - at the Exhibition of the Society of Model Engineers on Sept. 28.

First created by A.H. Reffell and Captain W. H. Richards, Eric was "quintessentially British," with impeccable manners and erudite speech.

"Eric was everything you imagined a robot to be," says curator Ben Russell of the Science Museum. "He was a talking, moving man of steel."

It was an amazing feat during that time, when mechanization across the world boosted as factories churned out military equipment for World War I. Improvements in manufacturing accelerated and production efficiency became high.

The industrialization spurred interest in all things mechanical, from science fiction and aircraft, and of course, robots.

Incidentally, the letters "R.U.R." were emblazoned on Eric's chest, which stood for "Rossumovi Univerzální Roboti" or Rossum's Universal Robots, a reference to a work by Karel Čapek, a Czech dramatist. Čapek introduced the term "robot" to the English language in 1921.

Bring Eric The Robot Back To Life

Unfortunately, Eric disappeared as quickly as he rose to fame. It was not known whether he was stolen, scrapped, or destroyed.

Now, Russell and his colleagues from the Science Museum plan to bring Eric back to life. They chanced upon stories about Eric in their archives while researching for the Robots exhibition, and contacted relatives of the people who developed and designed Eric.

The research team has brought together enough information including original plans, images and other documents that could help them rebuild the robot. They've enlisted the help of Giles Walker, an artist-roboticist, for the task.

Here's How You Can Help

The Science Museum has launched a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter in the hopes of getting enough funds to rebuild Eric.

If it reaches the goal, the museum plans to display Eric the Robot from October 2016.

Along with other robots, Eric would be showcased in the Robots exhibition that will begin in 2017. Afterward, Eric may set off on a world tour similar to the one experienced by the original Eric.

Several pledges can be made to help the museum: for £5 ($7.20), supporters will receive a digital photograph of Eric when he is finalized. For £20 ($29), an additional tote bag will be given. For £50 ($72) and more, there will be a laser-cut mini replica of the robot.

Watch the video below to see how the team's doing so far.

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