In the 50 years since George Devol and Joe Engelberger put the first robot on the factory floor of General Motors in 1961, robots have found their way into surgery rooms, scientific laboratories, battlefields, search and rescue situations, Mars, and even our homes as vacuum cleaners, toys, and security guards. Today, governments, corporations, and scientists envision robotics as a major component of technological, economic, and social development in the 21st century. Rodney Brooks suggests that a "robotics revolution" is imminent, while Bill Gates predicts that we will soon have "robots in every home." The Japanese government, in the meantime, is supporting the development of "partner robots" as a key growth industry.

In recognition of the technological advances and increasing social relevance of robotics, we are examining how the field has developed so far. We aim to develop an understanding of the development of robotics as a field of scientific study and technological practice that takes into account both individual experiences and broader system dynamics that have shaped the field. We use interviews, online surveys, and documents produced in the field to identify the individuals, institutions, events, and ideas that have significantly influenced the developmental trajectory of robotics and to better understand how the scientific goals and practices and societal applications and perceptions of robotics have changed through the years.

As writing a history of robotics is a very large project, our immediate goal is to take the initial steps in instigating academic discussion of the history of robotics, develop a framework for collecting video, audio, photographic, and archival data on the subject, and bringing it to the awareness of the public via an online archive. The 50-year anniversary of the application of robotics in society is an opportune moment to call attention to robotics as an important subject within the history of computing, as well as to make sure that information about the first half century of the field is not lost.

Project Leaders



Oussama Khatib

Standord University, USA


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Queensland University, Australia

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University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA

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George Mason University, USA


   Project Managers         

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The New School, USA

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Indiana University, USA


RAS Volunteers

David Alejandro Trejo Pizzo- Universidad de Palermo, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Raman Butta- National Institute of Technology Durgapur, Durgapur, India

Georgia Chalvatzaki- National Technical University of Athens, Athens, Greece

Matthew Cooper- Wright State University, Dayton (OH), USA

Jarrett David- Texas A&M, College Station (TX), USA

Gamal Elghazaly- CNRS LIRMM, Montepellier, France

Megan Emmons- Colorado State University, Fort Collins (CO), USA

William Gale- The University of Adelaide, Adelaide, South Australia

Lakshmi Jayalal- College of Engineering Trivandrum, Thiruvananthapuram, India

Heitor Judis Savino- Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Minas Gerais, Brazil

Margaret Koehler- Standford University, Stanford (CA), USA

Keng Huat Koh- Monash University, Melbourne, Australia

Minoo Koohsoltani- University of Tabriz, Tabriz, Iran

Ernesto Lana- Federal University of Minas Gerais, Minas Gerais, Brazil

Guilin Liu- George Mason University (GMU), Fairfax (VA), USA

Ying Lu- Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy (NY), USA

Kevin Sebastian Luck- Technische Universitat Darmstadt, Darmstadt, Germany

Steven Lyon- McMaster University, Ontario, Canada

Sterling McLeod- University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNCC), Charlotte (NC), USA

Kumar Digvijay Mishra- Colorado State University, Fort Collins (CO), USA

Shamsudhin Naveen- ETH, Zurich, Switzerland

Ahsan Nawroj- Yale University, New Haven (CT), USA

Victoria Oguntosin- University of Reading, England, UK

Thassyo Pinto- Michigan State University, East Lansing (MI), USA

Maroay Phlernjai- Michigan State University, East Lansing (MI), USA

Fernando Ramirez- Garibay Technologico de Monterrey, Campus Guadalajara, Guadalajara, Mexico

Benjamin Richardson- Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois

Akash Salow- Panimalar Institute of Technology, Pidarithangal, India

Traci Sarmiento- Texas A&M, College Station (TX), USA

George Sebastian- College of Engineering Trivandrum, Thiruvananthapuram, India

Yan Shen- University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles (CA), USA

Minou Kouh Soltani- University of Tabriz, Tabriz, Iran

Zhouyuan Song- University of Florida, Gainesville (FL), USA

Chris Vo- George Mason University, Fairfax (VA), USA