The word “robot” was popularized nearly a hundred years ago by a Czech playwright in a hit 1920s play. The origin of the word robot came from an old Slavic word, rabota, that referred to forced labor or servitude. In the play, a company called Rossum’s Universal Robots (R.U.R.) used biotechnology to produce artificial workers—a far cry from today’s mechanical robots. While the play was popular, it took more than 30 years for the first true robot invention in 1954. In the patent application for his programmable robot arm, George Devol described it as a “Programmed Article Transfer,” referencing the device’s ability to be programmed to move materials.
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