Museum Wants to Recreate Eric the Robot, One of the First Humanoid Machines

Eric Robot, Created By Richards And Reffell
London's Science Museum has started a crowdfunding campaign to rebuild Eric the Robot, which made his debut in 1928.Science Museum

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By Erik Ortiz

Before refined robots such as ASIMO and C-3PO inspired the world, there was Eric — the first "almost perfect man."

The robot was relegated to the dustbin of history after touring Europe and the U.S. in the 1920s. But now, after stumbling upon the original plans for Eric, the Science Museum in London has launched a Kickstarter campaign to bring this man of steel back to life.

London's Science Museum has started a crowdfunding campaign to rebuild Eric the Robot, which made his debut in 1928.Science Museum

As of Wednesday, the museum was still short of its more than $50,000 goal. But the hope, the museum said, is to have a robot replica ready in October so they can display him at a new "Robots" exhibition next February and send him off to travel the world like his predecessor.

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"As the U.K.’s first robot, Eric holds a unique place in our history," lead curator Ben Russell said in a statement. "He is everything we now imagine a robot to be — a talking, moving mechanical person — and with your support on Kickstarter we’ll bring him back to life for future generations to enjoy."

Eric was built in 1928 by World War I Capt. William Richards and engineer A.H. Reffell — less than a decade before the word "robot" was ever used, the Science Museum said.

He had his first public showing that same year at the Society of Model Engineers exhibition in London. The crowd got a glimpse of Eric's armor-plated chest, aluminum legs and arms, and light-bulb eyes. About 35,000 volts of electricity caused "blue sparks to fly from his teeth," according to the museum.

Eric, while primitive by modern standards, wowed audiences with his ability to stand up, sit down and "speak" with an English accent. The New York Times said he even muttered a few jokes during his Big Apple debut.

"I am impressed by your tall buildings and compressed by your subways," he reportedly said.

Eric was a hit in New York. He was "quintessentially British and deemed an 'almost perfect man' by the New York press," Russell said.

But sometime after his media blitz, the robot mysteriously disappeared. The museum hopes the public will have a new-found fascination for the crude robotic creature 88 years later.

"Was he lost, destroyed or recycled for spare parts? No-one knows," the Kickstarter campaign says. "But you can be part of bringing Eric back to life."