Monday, May 18, 2009

The very first Japanese robot, circa 1730

by Chris MaGee

Is this story related to Japanese cinema? No. Is it fascinating in it's own right? Yes, and that's why I decided to post it. Tom Vick, the author of the book "Asian Cinema: A Field Guide" turned me onto this ingenious and if you think about it pivotal bit of Japanese history. One thing people think about when they think about modern Japan are robots. The daily news is filled with stories of the latest robotic advances coming out of Japan, from robotic maids, TV hosts, even school teachers, but Japan's fascination with these technological wonders isn't a recent development. As far back as the Edo period (1603 - 1867) the Japanese were experimenting with clockwork dolls used in the venerable tea ceremony called "karakuri dolls". Invented in the early 18th-century by Japanese clockmaker Konoe Takeda these spring-loaded dolls were a novel way for the hosts of a tea ceremony to serve cups to their guests. The first video shows a recreation of one of these dolls built using the specifications from the "Karakuri Zui" the only surviving manuscript about the workings of these dolls. The next video is a modern day take on what these little robots may be used for today.

For more information on the "karakuri dolls" check out this website dedicated to them. Enjoy!

1 comment:

Ed Sizemore said...

That's amazing. I can't help but think of the scene from Ghost In The Shell: Innocence when I see this.