It’s important to keep up with the cutting edge of automation, but the history of robotics can also be fascinating. One of he earliest robots — from back when they were known as automata — is a vignette of golden birds built in the 1770s by British jeweler and goldsmith James Cox. It is the only surviving example of his work which is still functional and in its original state.
Known as the Peacock Clock, it is an elaborate clockwork mechanism including moving models of a peacock, a rooster, and an owl, as well as some other woodland creatures. The birds are life sized and designed to look as realistic as possible…given that they are made of silver, crystal, and bronze.
A gift for Catherine the Great
The Peacock Clock is located in the Hermitage, a gorgeous museum that is said to own three million works of art, only a fraction of which are on public display.
Every Wednesday the clock is wound up to enchant visitors. The peacock raises its tail and rotates with a coy glance. The rooster crows and nods. The owl’s head moves. A dragonfly marks the seconds.
The wonderful machine was a gift from Catherine the Great’s secret husband, Prince Potyomkin. He commissioned the work and it was created by Cox with the help of Friedrich Urey . The clock was shipped to Russia in pieces. A Russian engineer, Ivan Kuliblin, put the pieces back together over a period of nine years.
Are these birds robots?
They are not modern robots, but they are robots.
Clockwork automata are powered by winding a spring or a mainspring. The energy stored in the spring is released slowly, powering the automaton’s movements. Modern robots are typically powered by electricity. They use servo motors, which are electric motors with built-in feedback mechanisms that allow for precise control of position and speed. They often rely on batteries or external power sources.
Clockwork devices have limited or no programmability. Their movements are determined by the design of the gears, cams, and linkages that make up their internal mechanisms. They perform repetitive, predetermined actions. Modern robots are highly programmable and can execute a wide range of tasks. They can be programmed to respond to various inputs, adapt to changing environments, and perform complex sequences of actions. They can also incorporate sensors for perception and decision-making.
Modern robots can be highly complex and versatile. They are used in various industries, including manufacturing, healthcare, logistics, and research. They can have multiple degrees of freedom and perform tasks ranging from assembly and welding to surgery and exploration. They can also work with varying degrees of autonomy, unlike the automata.
If your modern robots operate with the use of Rexroth drive and control systems, we can help you keep them in tip-top working order. They may not be as beautiful as the Peacock Clock, but a well-maintained machine can be a thing of beauty in its own way. Call (479) 422-0390 for immediate assistance.