Science Museum Is Rebuilding Eric, the UK’s First Robot

The Science Museum in London is running a crowdfunding campaign for their recreation of Eric, the UK's first robot.

Captain William H Richards and A. H. Reffell built Eric robot in 1928 to open The Exhibition of the Society of Model Engineers. Richards was the secretary for the society and after the Duke of York was unable to attend the conference, Richards wanted a replacement with suitable notoriety. Eric weighed more than 45 kilograms and was built from an aluminum frame. Reports say that 35,000 Volts coursed through the robot’s system, emitting a series of blue sparks when Eric would speak.

The Science Museum in London is running a crowdfunding campaign to rebuild Eric for their 2017 Robots exhibition. No information is available about the first Eric’s fate, and the robot may have been destroyed to fuel the war effort or broken down for other projects. Curator Ben Russell is working with roboticist Giles Walker to recreate the original robot. Based on pictures from several newspaper articles and a short video it’s fairly simple to get an idea of the outside structure, but the inner workings and controls of the robot are more difficult to reconstruct.

The Cybernetic Zoo says that Eric’s feet were fastened to a box with a motor inside of it. His body held eleven electromagnets, a motor, and around three miles of wire. Head and arms had the ability to move along with waist control to make the robot stand or sit.

Reports say that two different methods might have been used to control the robot. Using voice control an operator could speak numbers and internal wires would vibrate to trigger corresponding circuits in the controller. Other theories say that an operator controlled Eric remotely and could regulate his interactions with crowd members.

Eric is a big part of the UK’s robotic history and this project will be very interesting to watch as it proceeds. Giles Walker already has a large stable of projects that blur the lines between engineering, robotics, art and sculpture. The campaign is running through June 16, 2016.