A Brief History Of Robot Butlers

Mark Zuckerberg is building an A.I. helper for his home. Here's some inspiration for him.

Mark Zuckerberg picked quite a challenge for his New Year's resolution.

The Facebook CEO announced over the weekend that he plans to build himself an artificially intelligent butler to help around the home, from controlling lights and room temperature to checking on Zuck's new baby girl, Max.

Of course, it remains to be seen whether or not he'll succeed -- most of us fail to keep our resolutions. But the idea of using artificial intelligence to help with our household needs is not exactly new. Since the early 1900s, inventors and engineers have attempted to develop humanoid machines to perform all those boring chores we don't have the time -- or desire -- to do.

At first, they looked like the Tin Man from "The Wizard of Oz" ...
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Gomshall, United Kingdom -- September 1928

William H. Richards, an English veteran of WWI, and engineer Alan Herbert Reffell built a radio-controlled robot for the opening of the 1928 Exhibition of the Society of Model Engineers in London. The homemade android was able to speak, tell time, shake hands and sit down when told. However, these abilities were limited: The robot's answers and movements had to be controlled via remote wireless or voice commands.
... but they were helpful around the house.
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Vienna, Austria -- circa 1950

This alien-looking droid is MM8, one of the many humanoid robots created by Austrian engineer Claus Scholz. It could perform simple tasks, such answering the phone, but it was unable to think independently or react on unknown objects.
They pitched in on chores like ironing ...
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Hertfordshire, United Kingdom -- 1981

A 6-foot 3-inch, radio-controlled robot does some ironing at its inventor Peter Holland's home in Hertfordshire. The 'bot ran on rechargeable batteries and could operate for up to three hours.
... and secretarial duties.
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Kaluga, Russia -- April 1987

Engineer Boris Grishin built a robot secretary capable of answering the phone, waking up the family in the morning, controlling the temperature and switching on and off the lights. However, the device had no thinking capability and could only perform a number of pre-programmed duties.
Modern 'bot helpers look much sleeker.
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Tokyo, Japan -- March 2009

Toshiba introduced a prototype housekeeping robot called ApriAttenda. The robot has three fingers on each arm and is able to perform simple tasks such as opening the door of a fridge and picking up a bottle.
Some are good with children.
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Tokyo, Japan -- February 2006

Honda started developing a humanoid robot in 1986. Two decades later, the Japanese auto giant launched ASIMO (Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility). The android could performs the tasks of a receptionist or information guide, carry and deliver objects, and even walk with a person while holding hands. The robot was not for sale, but some speculated that each one could cost around $1 million.
Others are ridiculously cute.
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Tokyo, Japan -- July 2015

Sota, a tiny humanoid robot built by Vstone, can control multiple electronic devices through advanced cloud technology. The creators of the robot hope to use this technology to provide various kind of services for elderly people and children.

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