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  Electro "the Moto-Man" and Sparko from Westinghouse | Previous | 1 | 2 | Next |  

Electro "the Moto-Man" and Sparko from Westinghouse

This 260-lb. mechanical man at the New York World's Fair 1939 walks, talks, smokes, and selects colors! His anatomy includes an "electric eye," 48 relays, 11 motors, a microphone, grid-glow tube, and amplifiers. THIS mighty automaton is never brain-weary because his brain lobes are 48 electrical relays. These devices do all the thinking for him; he merely obeys their promptings which are delivered through his nervous system of motors, levers, gears and chains. His spinal column is made of wire, and there's enough of it wound around his coils to encircle the world at the equator. His name?— "Elektro." He's "A Latin from . . . ." —Pittsburgh!

He stands 7 ft. high in his aluminum feet and has an 82-inch chest expansion. His chest, however, is always expanded because, like the rest of his body, it is made of aluminum over a steel frame. His feet are 18 inches long and half as broad. His food he takes from the nearest light socket, for Elektro is an electrical robot. He's the Westinghouse "Moto-Man."

All told, Elektro has a bag of 26 tricks. He not only walks forward, but he can back up just as readily. He bows his head as prettily as a debutante or turns it 45 degrees in either direction to gape like a rowdy. If in the mood, he will bring either hand up to his face in a patriotic salute, and if properly coached he will raise his hands and count on his fingers, bending them one at a time in approved finger-counting style.
Elektro's favorite colors are red and green. As a matter of fact, they are the only colors he sees, and when they are flashed with a light before his eyes he speaks out "red" or "green" as the case may be.

However, Elektro is at his prodigious best when it comes to smoking. He not only puffs and inhales, but he blows the smoke in billows from both nostrils. But frankly Elektro is a dullard by comparison with any man, and he can never hope to compete with human intelligence and muscular control. There are 292 different muscles in the human body, capable in combination of producing unestimated thousands of different movements beyond the 500 most elementary motions. On the basis of Elektro's 260-pound weight and 26 tricks, he requires about 10 pounds for every motion.

Elektro's "brain" weighs approximately 60 pounds and occupies more than 4 cubic feet of space outside the robot's body. The "brain" or control unit includes an "electric eye," 48 electric relays and signal lights, in addition to the controlling photo-electric cell. According to J. M. Barnett, the inventor of the Westinghouse "Moto-man," the "brain" alone would have to contain 1,026 electric relays in order to "think" for a robot capable of duplicating the 500 elementary human motions. It would then weigh nearly half a ton, and occupy about 108 cu. ft. of space! He is "bossed" by human commands spoken softly into a microphone, jumps to obey, although there is no visible connection between the microphone and the robot.

Spoken words set up vibrations which are converted into electrical waves by a grid-glow tube. The electric impulse then lifts a shutter in front of an electric lamp and sends a flash of light across the room to a photoelectric tube or "electric eye" in the control unit (not shown) which serves as Elektro's brain. The "electric eye" acts as a sensory nerve. It receives the light command, translates it into a feeble electric current which is amplified and sent on to the bank of relays. The relays, which operate on the same magnetic principle that makes the front door bell ring, close and open electric circuits to start Elektro's motors turning.

Talking to Elektro is like dialing an automatic telephone, using light impulses instead of numbers to cause the relays to act. It makes no difference what words are used to give the command so long as the proper number of light impulses are produced.
One word or impulse places a series of relays in position to act. Two words close the electrical circuit and release current to the motors employed in any particular movement of the robot. Three words activate relays to stop Elektro, and 4 words bring all of the relays back to their normal position of rest. Signal lights on the control panel inform the operator which movement of the robot is next in sequence. By speaking single words or a series of words properly spaced, the operator can cause the relays to skip over any number of these "points of motion." When the light flashes over the desired "point of motion" on the control panel, a 2-word command will start the proper relay.

Just as the "electric eye" converts light waves into electric currents to put life into the robot, two other "electric eyes" enable it to discern colors. These photoelectric cells are placed directly back of Elektro's glass eye. A filter in front of one tube lets only the relatively hot rays from red light through to the cell. A filter in front of the other tube permits only the relatively cool heat waves of green light to reach the tube. When the proper lights are flashed in Elektro's eyes, one or the other of these "electric eyes" energizes a relay to start a record revolving on a turntable to produce the word —"red" or "green."

Electro's walking is accomplished by of 4 rubber rollers under each foot which are driven by chains and shafts connected to a motor in the middle of the automaton. Nine motors are required to operate the fingers, arms, head and turntables for talking. Another small motor works the bellows for Elektro's smoking.

Like some radio programs, Elektro does his talking by means of transcriptions. His speech usually lasts about 1 minute and uses only 75 words. He has 8 turntables, each of which could be used to give 10-minute talks. Actually, except for an opening talk of about a minute, his other speeches will be only a few seconds long. A solenoid (a tubular coil) activated by electrical impulses in proportion to the harshness or softness of spoken words makes Elektro's aluminum lips move in rhythm to his speech-making.

Automatons have indeed come a long way since Aristotle speculated upon the possibility of making mechanical men. Elektro's direct forebear is Willie Vocalite, a robot developed a few years ago in the Westinghouse research laboratories. Willie is voice-operated and can stand up and sit down, but he can't walk. Their common ancestor was named Televox, hut he responded only to sounds transmitted by telephone wires and went through life without an "electric eye." These are actors on the stage of electrical living. The scientific principles which they dramatize are already quietly at work in industry. The Televox has now supplemented supervisory control in power transmission systems, enabling the system dispatcher to reroute the supply of electricity when a power line has been damaged. The "electric eye" and relays are employed in countless tasks of sorting, counting, and regulating, freeing human hands from monotonous and dangerous tasks. The sole reason for making Elektro was to dramatize the action of these sensitive electrical devices.

This Electro Information is brought to you through the Courtesy of: – Joseph M. Barnett , 1937
This Sparko Information is brought to you through the Courtesy of: the Robot Dog, 1940

Source: internet, My Collection - Updated 05-14-2017