Boston Dynamics at TechCrunch London


Here is a fascinating interview, with new video included of their robots in development, featuring Boston Dynamics at TechCrunch Disrupt, London, 5th-6th December 2016. The balance capabilities of these robots is quite astounding. It’s a long video, but well worth watching.

Collecting movie stills – 4 – Superman


SupermanRobotHeadThis rather unconvincing robot appeared in the TV series Adventures of Superman in an episode entitled The Runaway Robot. The series began filming in 1951 and was first broadcast in 1952. This still is taken from episode 17 of the first series. The entire episode can be viewed on YouTube, but there is a small charge to watch it. The series’ introduction titles and music can be watched below. The role of Superman was played by American actor George Reeves (1914-1958).

An eccentric staff correspondent of the Daily Planet, Horatio, brings his latest invention, an electronically controlled robot, to town. It falls into the hands of robbers who put it to work looting the First National Bank in the Superman adventure thriller, “The Runaway Robot.” Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, and Horatio need the help of Clark Kent as Superman when they try to stop the uncontrollable electric man.

There is, apparently, a rather strange ‘Superman curse’ which has affected actors involved in the various Superman TV shows and films over the years. It seems to have started with George Reeves who died of a gunshot wound in mysterious circumstances (officially suicide). The similarly named actor Christopher Reeve, who played superman in the four film series from 1978 to 1987, was paralysed from the neck down after a horse riding accident. Many more supposed victims of the curse can be read about here: Superman curse.

EPCO plays checkers . . . and wins

Electopak-Robot---full-picThis rare photograph, seen for sale at an online auction site recently, was, I believe, taken in about 1937. I have managed to find an article in Automatic Age magazine (link) which I believe tells the story of this robot. I’m not too certain because the vendor of the photograph states that it may have been taken in the 1950s.

Electopak-Robot---detail2 Electopak-Robot---detail1These two detail shots highlight the reward of $150 “to anyone who beats the robot playing checkers”, and the mirror above the robot on which the crowd can watch the game of checkers being played by the robot.

The Automatic Age article, The Story of Epco – the Mechanical Man, described how John T. Bradford, the world’s champion master checker player, was beaten by Epco. “Mr Bradford played two games with the Epco robot. The crowd, completely encircling the booth many rows deep, drew in closer to watch the match. It was a dramatic situation, intense from not only the competitive angle but also because of the fantastic atmosphere. … Bradford, a human genius, whose mind is highly developed and attuned to intensive thinking, and Epco, an electrical robot, a thing of cold metal, wood, wiring and electrical gadgets. They played, man against machine! The Epco robot, calmly and mechanically sure of each move, relentlessly checked every maneuver of the world’s champion to gain a decisive victory.”

They played again and Bradford, “although a true genius”, could only manage a draw.

More research is needed, but I have to say I am rather suspicious that there may have been a man inside Epco.