Britain’s first robot brought back to life by the Science Museum
A full-size working replica of Eric, one of the world’s first robots, has gone on display at London’s Science Museum.
Originally built by First World War veteran Captain William Richards and aircraft engineer Alan Reffell, Eric wowed the nation when he made his first appearance at the opening of the Exhibition of the Society of Model Engineers in London in 1928.
After his debut, Eric toured the world, before mysteriously disappearing without a trace. That is, until earlier this year, when the curators at the Science Museum tracked down lost blueprints from the original Eric in the museum's archives while researching a new exhibition.
In June 2016, the Science Museum launched a Kickstarter campaign to bring Eric back to life to star in a forthcoming major exhibition, Robots. The campaign was backed by 861 Eric enthusiasts, raising over £50,000, allowing the museum to bring Eric and a second robot, Inhka, back to life.
Standing two metres tall and made from polished tin, the new robot has been made as close as possible to the original Eric and comes complete with the characteristic RUR logo on his chest, along with a vicious-looking mouth that flashes when he talks.
At the launch event, Eric stood up, groaned and stretched, before giving a speech to campaign backers, press and the assembled descendants of his original creators, remarking how nice it was to be back again. He went on to pose for pictures alongside his latest creator, artist and robot builder Giles Walker.
Ben Russell, lead curator for the upcoming Robots exhibition, who also lent his voice to the new Eric, remarked at the launch how honoured he was to play a part in bringing Britain’s first robot back to life.
“I’ve always been fascinated by robots and it’s a huge thrill that Eric is now on display and we are able to share his fascinating story at the Science Museum,” Russell said. “As the UK’s first robot, Eric holds a unique place in our history. He was everything we now imagine a robot to be – a talking, moving mechanical person – and I can’t wait for many thousands of people to see our replica of Eric over the next six weeks.”
Eric will be on public display from 20 October to 30 November 2016 and will be demonstrated twice a week while on show at the museum. He will go on to star in the museum’s major Robots exhibition, which launches in February 2017. Eric and the other robots will also travel the world as part of the exhibition’s international tour from 2018.
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