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London Science Museum wants to rebuild the UK's first robot

Engadget Engadget 10/05/2016 Nick Summers
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The Science Museum in London is on a mission to rebuild the UK's first humanoid robot. "Eric" was invented by William Richards and Albert Herbert Reffell, two veterans of the First World War, in 1928. He was a large, burly machine covered in aluminium, and was able to stand up, move his arms and change the position of his head. Eric's movements could be controlled remotely over a wireless connection, or directly using voice commands, much to the amusement of the public. He was built initially to open an Exhibition of the Society of Model Engineers in London, but later travelled the world, meeting politicians and celebrities.

But then Eric mysteriously vanished. No-one is sure what happened to the robot -- he might have been lost, destroyed, or scrapped for parts. Now, the Science Museum wants to recreate Eric using photos and archived material supplied by his creators' relatives. The organisation has commissioned roboticist Giles Walker to complete the project, and estimates that the new Eric can be built in just a few months. If all goes to plan, the reconstructed robot will be unveiled at the museum this October, free for anyone to see. He'll disappear a month later and then featured in a larger, paid exhibit due to open in February, before touring the world like his predecessor.

There's one caveat -- the Science Museum needs some cash. It's asking for £35,000 (roughly $50,551) on Kickstarter, with the usual slew of backer rewards including a behind-the-scenes short film, an Eric-themed t-shirt, a jazzy tote bag and a built-it-yourself model. All of that is secondary, however, to what the museum hopes will be an interest in rebuilding and, subsequently, preserving an important piece of history. Sure, it won't be the real Eric, but a new version of the primitive android could help the public to understand and appreciate the origins of robotics.

Rebuild Eric (Kickstarter)

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