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People have always been fascinated with beings and devices that can mimic human form, structure and function. At first these devices, so-called simulacra, only displayed some human likeness, but required real human intervention to make them “work”. A famous example is the 18th century “Turk”, a (fake) mechanical chess-playing machine, that required a hidden human chess master to operate the machine.

Others, called automata, were devices that had some independence. I.e. self-operating, mechanical, moving machines. Especially those that resembled human actions, such as The Flute Player, invented by French engineer Jacques de Vaucanson in 1737, considered to be the world’s first successfully-built biomechanical automaton.

And, although human morphology is not necessarily the ideal form for a machine, this fascination in developing “robots” and, eventually, “androids” that can mimic us, was assimilated from the above two concepts of devices that exhibit human likeness, and machines that display independence.

This website deals with these autonomous machines that look and act like humans but, first, we have to consider a few, sometimes confusing, terms in this field…

A humanoid is any being whose body structure resembles that of a human, but usually refers to anything with uniquely human characteristics and/or adaptations.

In general, a robot is a computer-controlled electro-mechanical machine that has a degree of autonomy.

Jules

This is 'Jules', a very life-like android that only has part of an upper torso and head

It follows that a humanoid robot is a computerized machine that “looks” human. Its overall appearance is based on the general structure and functions of a human body. Humanoid robots usually has an upper torso with a head, two arms and two legs, although some may have only part of the body, like just the upper “body”. Although some humanoid robots may also have a human-like “face”, with ‘eyes’ and ‘mouth’, they do not necessarily look convincingly like a real person.

Ever-2

EveR-2, the first android that has the ability to sing

The word “android” is from the Ancient Greek andros and -oid, which means “in the form of a man”. Thus, an android (male) or gynoid (female) is a humanoid robot (or “synthetic being”) designed to look and act exactly like a human. Although android is often used to refer to a humanoid, or humanoid robot, there are technical differences, as an android can also be a “synthetic organism”. In addition, the feminine form, “gynoid” is rarely used, and “android” is applied almost universally to both “sexes”.

Until very recently, robots, humanoid robots, and androids have largely remained within the domain of science fiction, usually only seen in film and television. But some real humanoid robots have been developed since the 1990s, and some real human-looking android robots have been developed since 2002.

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