Week3_Robotic Art in the past by Nikola Kondov

We always tend to think that robotics are a thing of our age, the modern age. This was preceded by several generations of science fiction writers and artists who predicted that our life would be dependent on machines. When my father was a kid, he once heard the prediction that by the year 2000 we would be walking alongside robots. Now we all know that this is not the case, yet robots get more and more complex. But I never thought that the first machines that actually conform to the definiton of a “robot” were invented long before our age. In fact, a lot of the mechanisms that are thought to be an invention of the 20th century were “born” long ago. In the 13th century A.D. a great scientist, named Al-Jazzari was born in the Arab world. He invented a lot of things, including the crankshaft and the connecting rod, which was used in the¬† “saqiya chain pumps” , which basically used hydropower instead of manpower. He also invented the twin-cylinder reciprocating piston suction pump.

Twin-cylinder reciprocating piston suction pump

He also invented a water-supply system, which supplied water to mosques and hospitals in Damascus.

But some of his inventions are truly a work of art. He created humanoid machines. One of his most notable inventions was an automated waitress that was able to serve tea, water and drinks. He invented the famous “peacock fountain”¬† which was a sophisticated¬† hand-washing installation which featured humanoid machines that were offering soap and towels. He created an “automated musical band” which consisted of programmable humanoid machines that enternained royalty.al-jazari_robots Al-Jazari’s “robot” band

While his inventions were not exactly conforming to the modern definition of a robot, it is among the first if not the first example of robotic art. It was clearly innovative, pushing the boundaries of what is possible. To me this is a remarkable incorporation of science in art.

~by Nikola Kondov

(based on an article on wikipedia.org; article URL: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al-Jazari#Saqiya_chain_pumps)

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