10 Historical Robots

Karakuri Ningyo
Many of the inner workings of these dolls are skillfully hidden with beautiful clothing. Photo by World Imaging, used under Creative Commons 2.0 license

The Edo period in Japan lasted from around 1600 to nearly 1900, and it was a good time for arts, culture and, yes, automatons. During this period, karakuri ningyo (basically meaning mechanized dolls) were born.

The dolls varied in their sophistication and capabilities. In one example, placing a cup of tea on a tray in the doll's hands caused it to walk and then bow. Another doll was able to grip arrows and then fire them at a target using a bow. Still another could do handsprings down a staircase.

All of them work thanks to internal clockwork gears and mechanisms. They were built mostly for entertainment. But it's easy to see how they've influenced Japan's modern-day obsession with robotics and technology.

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