Japan is the land of robots where you are likely to see a variety making sushi, vacuuming, serving tea, greeting guests and even serving as receptionists in some hotels. However, have you ever wondered where it all began? If so, this article will provide a brief introduction to the very first robot in Japan, Gakutensoku, which can be translated as “learning from the laws of nature”.
Gakutensoku was made in 1929 by Makoto Nishimura, a biologist in Osaka. Nishimura was very much into the natural world that he encapsulated his thoughts and ideas into Gakutensoku. This robot was supposed to symbolize the existence of equality among all races as well as the harmony of nature, which is symbolized by his crown made of leaves.
Gakutensoku is about three meters tall and was designed to change facial expressions smoothly through an air pressure mechanism. Its face is made of rubber and has big eyes. This design was patterned according to the characteristics of different people around the world. It can move its eyes, eyelids, cheeks, mouth, neck, and chest. When it thinks, it closes its eyes and re-opens them when its inspirational light (in its left hand) lights up and then, it will begin writing things down with its arrow-shaped pen in its right hand.
Due to its popularity, Gakutensoku was exhibited all around Japan. However, it was lost in Germany in the 1930’s while on tour and is why another version of Gakutensoku was produced by Osaka Science Museum and is currently on display there. This was a modern version where movements were controlled by a computer. Subsequently, it has also been used in a film based on a novel by Hiroshi Aramata. Also, an asteroid known as 9786 Gakutensoku has also been named after it.
As you may be aware, there are many modern robots that have sprung up since the birth of Japan’s first robot, Gakutensoku. Most are created with an aim to improve people’s way of living and provide overall enjoyment for all.
Osaka Science Museum Website*Japanese Only