Timeline

It occurred to me that if I could invent a machine — a gun — which could by its rapidity of fire, enable one man to do as much battle duty as a hundred, that it would, to a large extent supersede the necessity of large armies, and consequently, exposure to battle and disease would be greatly diminished
Dr Richard Gatling
Inventor of the Gatling Gun, 1865
Automated weapons are not new. During the United States Civil War, Gatling’s intention was to lessen battlefield casualties (by disease and injury) with the new machine gun, a device through which he hoped would indicate the folly of war to a country divided. It had the opposite effect. Yet the same argument is made in favour of “life-saving” autonomous weapons, by UN member states such as the US, China and Russia today.
If we look further back into history, we see that the automated machine has been a central theme to humanity’s imagination:
312 BC
Aristotle

Aristotle wrote, “If every tool, when ordered, or even of its own accord, could do the work that befits it… then there would be no need either of apprentices for the master workers, or of slaves for the lords.”

•77-100 BC
Antikathera Device

The Antikathera Device was a mechanical computer found by a diver off of the island of Crete in 1901. The machine was built to track the position of the sun and other celestial bodies.

1495
da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci sketched plans for a machinated humanoid.

1865
John Brainerd

John Brainerd built the cart-pulling Steam Man.

1921
Karel Čapek

Karel Čapek introduced the world to the word, ‘Robot’, via the play, “Rossum’s Universal Robots”.

1932
Lilliput

Lilliput, a wind-up, walking tin toy, was the first true robot in Japan.

1935
82B Queen Bee

The first modern drone, De Havilland’s DH. 82B Queen Bee, is used as a low-cost radio-controlled drone for aerial target practice.

1939
ELEKTRO

Westinghouse followed Lilliput with ELEKTRO, a walking, talking and smoking robot, making its debut at the World Fair.

1941
Robotics

Isaac Asimov coins the term, “robotics,” in 1941. In 1942 he introduces the famous, “Laws of Robotics,” in the short story, “Runaround.” The Laws of Robotics are referenced throughout the 20th Century in science fiction stories. They are a code of ethics.

1954
UNIMATE

The first programmable robot, UNIMATE (Universal Automation), was designed by George Devol in 1954.

1965
AI Labs

1964 Artificial Intelligence labs are opened at MIT and other universities follow suit. Carnegie Melon opens the Robotics Institute in 1965.

1973
WABOT 1

=WABOT 1 was created by Ichiro Kato. WABOT’s intelligence was estimated to be equal to an 18 month-old human.

1974
INTEL CHIPS

INTEL manufactures first batch of general purpose chips.

1975
ALTAIR PC

MITS ALTAIR becomes the first personal computer.

1979
STANFORD CART

The Stanford Cart navigated a cluttered room without assistance. The Selective Compliant Articulated Robotic Arm is invented at Yamanashi University (Japan).

1985
WASEDA HITACHI LEG-11

Hitachi develops the bipedal Waseda Hitachi Leg-11 (WHL-11) capable of taking one step every 13 seconds.

1988
HELP MATE

The first Help Mate robot goes into service at Danbury Hospital, USA.

1990
iRobot

iRobot Corporation is founded and produces domestic and military robots.

1993
Robot Explorer

Dante the robot (designed by Carnegie-Mellon University) explores Antarctica before breaking its tether.

1996
P2

Honda creates P2, the precursor to Asimo.

1997
Pathfinder

NASA’s Pathfinder lands on Mars. Reigning world chess champion Gary Kasparov is beaten by IBM’s Deep Blue computer. Honda creates the P3, another precursor to Asimo.

1998
kismet

Dr Cynthia Breazeal (MIT) creates Kismet, which interacts empathically with people. LEGO releases Mindstorms robotics stream.

2000
Dream robot

Sony releases the Sony Dream Robot (SDR) that reads emotions through speech and body language.

2001
iRobot packbots

iRobot Packbots are used to search the rubble of the World Trade Centres after 9/11. They will be deployed in future recovery missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. Canada builds the Space Station Remote Manipulator System (aka Canadarm 2) to work on the International Space Station.

2002
asimo

ASIMO (Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility) is launched by Honda. The Roomba robotic vacuum cleaner is released. Centibots are released as an army of autonomous surveillance units by Stanford Research Institute and funded by Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

2005
HUBO

• 2005 the Korean Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) creates HUBO, the world’s smartest robot wirelessly linked to a computer “brain.” Cornell University creates self-replicating robots. Stanford’s autonomous vehicle “Stanley” the Volkswagen Tourag wins the DARPA 175 mile “Grand Challenge.” Denmark’s Universal Robot company is launched, and will later form the Cobot, the collaborative robot market (2007).

2008
Roomba

The Roomba robotic vacuum cleaner sells over 2.5 million units

2010
jeapordy

IBM’s Watson beats Jeopardy game show contestants

2011
Siri

Apple unveils Siri.

2012
Kiva Systems

Amazon purchases the Kiva Systems mobile robotics business for $775 million (USD), the single largest robotics transaction to date.

2013
cobot

The COBOT “Coming out party” is held at Automate in Chicago involving companies Universal Robot and Rethink. Boston Dynamics was acquired by Alphabet, the parent company of Google for an undisclosed amount, along with 8 other robotic companies..

2014
fetch robotics

Fetch Robotics is founded, the pioneer of On-Demand Automation. 221,000 industrial robots shipped globally.

2016
Midea

Chinese appliance manufacturer Midea launch a 4.5 billion Euro offer for German robot maker Kuka in May 2016 allowing it to control a 94.55 percent voting stake in Kuka

2017
sophia

SoftBank, the Japanese telecommunications and technology company buys Boston Dynamics from Alphabet for an undisclosed amount. Hanson Robotics’ Sophia is the first robot to gain citizenship (Saudi Arabia) and granted a gender.

2018
assassination attempt

Drone assassination attempt on Venezuelan president.

2019
nanobots

Amazon acquires autonomous robotic delivery startup Canvas Technology (Boulder, CO). 2019 Millions of nanobots are created by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania

2020
autonomous drone strikes

Robotic pets marketed for companions of dementia sufferers. First documented autonomous drone strike in Libya.

2021
civilian deaths

US piloted drone strike kills 10 civilians in Kabul, Afghanistan. No military are punished.

2022
Suicide Drones

Russia uses Iranian Shahed 136 loitering "suicide" drones to attack Kyiv civilians.