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The First Mobile Intelligent Robot

By Norman Chan

Dreamed up 50 yeras ago and funded by DARPA.

Wired has a fun nostalgic story about Shakey, one of the earliest attempts by computer scientists and roboticists to build a mobile automaton with the ability to learn. An idea conceived by researchers at Stanford and funded by DARPA and NASA, Shakey wasn't much more than a television camera and series of sensors mounted on a motorized platform. But it did have some brains, courtesy of a room-sized mainframe computer that Shakey communicated with via a radio antenna atop its head. Over its lifetime, programmers were able to give it the ability to map out and find its way around rooms--concepts still in use today for navigation applications. Retired in 1972, Shakey now rests in the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, and is an inductee of the Carnegie Mellon Robot Hall of Fame. Watch this great informational video produced in 1969 detailing the operation of Shakey.