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As the UK's first robot, Eric has a unique place in history. Join the Science Museum and help bring Eric back to life.
As the UK's first robot, Eric has a unique place in history. With your help the Science Museum is bringing Eric back to life.
As the UK's first robot, Eric has a unique place in history. With your help the Science Museum is bringing Eric back to life.
861 backers pledged £51,813 to help bring this project to life.

About this project

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Rebuild Eric: The UK's First Robot

£51,813

861

We did it! Thanks to 800+ of you, we can now bring both Eric and Inhka back to life.  

We have started rebuilding Eric and conserving Inhka, and will be sharing this journey through regular updates with you, our backers. We are also busy preparing fantastic rewards and will send these out later this year. 

You’ll be able to see Eric for free at the Science Museum in October 2016, once he is completed. 

Eric and Inhka will then star in our major Robots exhibition, which will explore the remarkable 500-year story of humanoid robotics when it opens in February 2017. Stay up to date with Eric and Inhka as part of the Robots exhibition by signing up to our email newsletter

...

Hello Kickstarter, I’m curator Ben Russell and my dream is to rebuild the UK’s first robot, Eric.

Built in 1928, Eric holds a unique place in our history. He was everything we now imagine a robot to be – a talking, moving mechanical person. But then Eric disappeared and no-one knows what happened to him.

Now with your support the Science Museum and expert roboticist Giles Walker will rebuild Eric based on original archive materials.

Eric's first appearance at an event in 1928
Eric's first appearance at an event in 1928

You can help save Eric for the nation as part of the Science Museum's permanent collection. 

Eric will go on public display for everyone to see for free in October 2016 for a month before he stars in the Museum's major Robots exhibition opening in February 2017. The exhibition (and Eric) will also visit Manchester in the UK and a number of international museums as part of a 5 year tour.

Stretch Goal: Bringing Inhka back to life

If we reach £50,000 we’ll also be able to preserve and care for the incredible Inhka.  

This mischievous robotic receptionist greeted visitors to King’s College London from 2003 until 2014, dispensing directions, information and attitude with a cocky tilt of her head.

Inhka was one of only three ever built, and the only one of her kind to interact with the public for so long. Now retired from the reception desk at King’s, we want to re-animate Inhka, helping preserve her for future generations to enjoy.    

Reaching our £50,000 stretch goal will enable us to replace Inhka’s motors and update her software so she moves smoothly. We’ll upgrade her hardware so she can maintain her behaviours and physical functions, ensuring that the technology that controls her doesn’t go obsolete. Inhka will also be cleaned and made ready to greet visitors again.  

After we complete our conservation work, Inhka will join Eric in our 2017 Robots exhibition. Thanks to you, Inhka will once again interact with the public, enjoying banter with visitors and even offering fashion advice.    

So join our campaign and help bring both Eric and Inhka back to life. 

We’ve been blown away by the global interest in Eric’s story. 

Listen here as the QI elves share Eric's story in the hilarious No Such Thing As A Fish podcast, hear Ben Russell’s interview on NPR (US public radio) and read about our dream to rebuild Eric in HyperallergicPopular Science, Wired UK, VICE (Motherboard), BBC News, The Daily Telegraph, London Evening Standard, Financial Times, MailOnlineArsTechnica UK, CNET, Engadget, Gizmag and more.

Who was Eric?

Originally built by Captain W. H. Richards & A.H. Reffell, Eric was one of the world’s first robots. Created less than a decade after the word robot was first used, Eric was quintessentially British and deemed an almost perfect man by the New York press.

Eric's first public performance was on 20 September 1928, when he opened the Society of Model Engineers' annual exhibition 'with a really sparkling speech'. The society had originally invited the Duke of York to open the event but he declined, so Captain W. H. Richards decided as 'it is a mechanical show, let us have a mechanical man to open it' and started work on creating Eric.

You can read more about Eric's story in a new blog from curator Ben Russell, in an interview with Hyperallergic or in this original 1928 article in Popular Science Monthly.   

Eric opening the Model Engineering Exhibition in London in 1928, as shown in Popular Science Monthly. Credit: Science Museum
Eric opening the Model Engineering Exhibition in London in 1928, as shown in Popular Science Monthly. Credit: Science Museum

Eric was built at a time when robots had just become part of popular culture. The word 'robot' was first introduced to the English language in R.U.R., a 1920 play by Czech writer Karel Čapek. R.U.R. stands for Rossumovi Univerzální Roboti (Rossum’s Universal Robots). These letters can be seen on Eric's chest.

He weighed just over 45 kg and had a 'armour-plated chest, legs and arms' made of Aluminium. Eric had light bulbs for eyes and 35,000 volts of electricity caused blue sparks to fly from his teeth.   

Crowds were wowed by Eric, he charmed dignitaries and celebrities as he travelled the globe with his makers, visiting the UK, US and Europe.

Then Eric disappeared. Was he lost, destroyed or recycled for spare parts? No-one knows. But you can be part of bringing Eric back to life. 

Eric, the UK's first robot.
Eric, the UK's first robot.

Who are we?

For over 100 years at the Science Museum in London, we’ve been collecting and caring for thousands of incredible objects and sharing their amazing stories. From steam engines that tell the story of industry and change, to spacecraft like Apollo 10 that helped humanity explore new horizons.

Although robots are large, heavy, solid things, they have always tended to be rather ephemeral. Robots are working objects and tend to get cannibalised for spare parts, lost, neglected, forgotten about, or deliberately scrapped.      

To make sure the fascinating stories of these incredible robots can be told, the Science Museum has rescued a number of relatively recent robots from sheds, basements and other forgotten places and will care for them for the nation. Many of these robots (and Eric) will go on display in our 2017 Robots exhibition.

Making the Modern World gallery in the Science Museum © Benjamin Ealovega
Making the Modern World gallery in the Science Museum © Benjamin Ealovega

How will we bring Eric back to life?

Curator Ben Russell discusses rebuilding Eric with roboticist Giles Walker.
Curator Ben Russell discusses rebuilding Eric with roboticist Giles Walker.

Our dream to rebuild Eric began when we stumbled across Eric’s remarkable story while researching our upcoming Robots exhibition. We tracked down the relatives of Eric's original creators and they have helped us to gather enough original imagery to bring him back to life.

We’ve commissioned expert roboticist Giles Walker to rebuild Eric in the UK. Giles has already made working drawings based on archive materials and discussions with curator Ben Russell.

Building Eric

It will take about three months to rebuild Eric and we are ready to begin. 

The first stage is to build Eric’s internal metal frame which will support his aluminium skin and the electronics and motors which will allow him to move. Once the motors and wiring are added and tested, aluminium will be cut and applied to form Eric’s skin. Finally the frame and aluminium will be cleaned and the electronics and software which will control Eric's movements will be added and tested.

Although Eric’s external appearance is relatively easy to establish from photographs taken during his lifetime and some of his movements can be seen in surviving film footage, reverse-engineering Eric's insides will be a far more difficult challenge.

The only image of Eric's insides is from an artist’s impression, which may (or may not) be accurate as Eric’s makers didn’t want to give too much away. Although we will use modern components inside Eric, we still have much experimenting to do to ensure that Eric moves like the original.

Working drawings for the rebuilding of Eric
Working drawings for the rebuilding of Eric

 

Who will build Eric?

Eric will be built in south London by roboticist Giles Walker, with support and advice from curator Ben Russell.

Curator Ben Russell (l) and roboticist Giles Walker (r) discuss how to build Eric
Curator Ben Russell (l) and roboticist Giles Walker (r) discuss how to build Eric

Ben is Curator of Mechanical Engineering at the Science Museum and is lead curator for the Robots exhibition. Ben has curated many exhibitions at the Museum and has also published a book, James Watt: Making the World Anew. As well as advising on the rebuild of Eric, he is also writing a book on the history of humanoid robotics to accompany the exhibition.

Giles is a scrap artist and roboticist who has been transforming industrial waste into fully functional robots for over 20 years. His work ranges from bringing old robots back to life to creating robots for music festivals. 

As a member of the prolific guerilla-art group The Mutoid Waste Company, Giles' work has been exhibited across the world, touring in Europe, Japan, Australia, Russia and Ukraine. His two cyborg pole dancers, a work entitled Peepshow, were featured in an exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.

Giles at work in his studio
Giles at work in his studio

 

Two of Giles' robotic creations: Mike Free (l) and Communications Breakdown (r)
Two of Giles' robotic creations: Mike Free (l) and Communications Breakdown (r)

When can I see Eric?

Back our campaign and you will be able to see Eric on display for free in the Museum from October 2016 for a month.

He will then feature as one of the stars of our Robots exhibition in 2017 before he travels the world with the exhibition, just like the original did almost 90 years ago. Eric will visit Manchester, UK, and a number of international venues as part of the 5-year exhibition tour. Eric will then return to the Museum as part of our permanent collection. 

Team Eric

This is your chance to help rebuild a part of history, to bring one of the earliest robots ever made back to life and help Eric inspire future generations across the world.

Join us and be part of this amazing project to bring Eric back to life. With your support, we can all make our dream of rebuilding Eric a reality.

 

 

Rewards

We have some fantastic rewards for you, our backers. To join us just click your preferred reward listed on the right.

Curator Ben Russell picks just a few of the rewards available for everyone who supports the rebuilding of Eric. 

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For £25 backers and above, your name will be proudly displayed in the Museum by our Robots exhibition (from Feb-Sept 2017).

 

 

Plus all £5 rewards
Plus all £5 rewards

 

Plus all £5 and £10 rewards
Plus all £5 and £10 rewards

 

Plus all £5 and £10 rewards
Plus all £5 and £10 rewards

 

Plus all £5 and £10 rewards
Plus all £5 and £10 rewards

 

Modelled here in paper, but the reward is made of steel. Plus all £5 and £10 rewards and your name proudly displayed in the Museum
Modelled here in paper, but the reward is made of steel. Plus all £5 and £10 rewards and your name proudly displayed in the Museum

 

Plus all £5 and £10 rewards and your name proudly displayed in the Museum
Plus all £5 and £10 rewards and your name proudly displayed in the Museum

 

Plus all £5 and £10 rewards and your name proudly displayed in the Museum
Plus all £5 and £10 rewards and your name proudly displayed in the Museum

 

Made from the same material used to build Eric. Plus all £5 and £10 rewards and your name proudly displayed in the Museum
Made from the same material used to build Eric. Plus all £5 and £10 rewards and your name proudly displayed in the Museum

 

Plus all £5 and £10 rewards, an Eric tote bag and your name proudly displayed in the Museum
Plus all £5 and £10 rewards, an Eric tote bag and your name proudly displayed in the Museum

 

Plus all £5 and £10 rewards, an Eric tote bag and your name proudly displayed in the Museum
Plus all £5 and £10 rewards, an Eric tote bag and your name proudly displayed in the Museum

 

Plus all £5 and £10 rewards, an Eric tote bag, invitation to the Robots exhibition private view and your name proudly displayed in the Museum
Plus all £5 and £10 rewards, an Eric tote bag, invitation to the Robots exhibition private view and your name proudly displayed in the Museum

 

Your name featured next to Eric while he is on display in October 2016. Plus all £5 and £10 rewards, an Eric tote bag, an invitation to Eric's unveiling and to see Eric being built and your name proudly displayed in the Museum (Feb - Sept 2017)
Your name featured next to Eric while he is on display in October 2016. Plus all £5 and £10 rewards, an Eric tote bag, an invitation to Eric's unveiling and to see Eric being built and your name proudly displayed in the Museum (Feb - Sept 2017)

 

Be some of the first to see Eric in the Robots exhibition at the VIP exhibition opening. Plus all £5 and £10 rewards and your name proudly displayed in the Museum
Be some of the first to see Eric in the Robots exhibition at the VIP exhibition opening. Plus all £5 and £10 rewards and your name proudly displayed in the Museum

 

Plus all £5 and £10 rewards and your name proudly displayed in the Museum
Plus all £5 and £10 rewards and your name proudly displayed in the Museum

About our Robots exhibition

Opening in February 2017, the Robots exhibition will explore the 500-year story of humanoid robots and the artistic and scientific quest to understand what it means to be human. 

Robots have been at the heart of popular culture since the word ‘robot’ was first used in 1920, but their fascinating story dates back many centuries. The exhibition will explore how robots and society have been shaped by religious belief, the industrial revolution, popular culture and dreams about the future. 

Set in five different periods and places, this major exhibition will feature a unique collection of over 100 robots, from a 16th-century mechanical monk to robots from science fiction and modern-day research labs. Among many other highlights will be an articulated iron manikin from the 1500s, Cygan, a 2.4m tall 1950s robot with a glamorous past, and one of the first walking bipedal robots. 

Eric was one of the first robots ever built and his incredible story deserves to be told. Back our campaign and be part of bringing Eric back to life.

Risks and challenges

We feel confident that enough people share our dream of rebuilding the UK's first robot that the project will be successful. If we fail to meet our target, the project will be short of funds but we're committed to rebuilding Eric.

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Support this project

  1. Select this reward

    Pledge £5 or more About $7

    Thanks for helping bring Eric back to life.

    Enjoy an exclusive digital photograph of Eric taken on the day he is finished + Your name on our website + Regular updates on the project.

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    105 backers
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  2. Select this reward

    Pledge £10 or more About $14

    A specially recorded thank you video from Eric himself for you, our wonderful backers

    AND

    Go behind the scenes with our short film revealing how Eric was built.

    Plus: An exclusive digital photograph of Eric taken on the day he is finished + Your name on our website + Regular updates on the project.

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    82 backers
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  3. Select this reward

    Pledge £20 or more About $29

    An Eric T-shirt exclusively designed by the Science Museum’s Inventor-in-Residence Mark Champkins.

    Plus: A thank you video from Eric and behind the scenes film + Digital photograph of Eric + Your name on our website + Regular updates on the project.

    We'll ask about your T-shirt preference/sizes when the Kickstarter ends.

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    120 backers
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  4. Select this reward

    Pledge £20 or more About $29

    An exclusive Eric tote bag designed by the Science Museum’s Inventor-in-Residence Mark Champkins.

    Plus: A thank you video from Eric and behind the scenes film + Digital photograph of Eric + Your name on our website + Regular updates on the project.

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    36 backers
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  5. Select this reward

    Pledge £25 or more About $36

    Exclusive Eric tote bag or Eric T-shirt

    AND

    We will proudly display your name in the Science Museum for the duration of the Robots exhibition (Feb – Sep 2017).

    Plus: A thank you video from Eric and behind the scenes film + Digital photograph of Eric + Your name on our website + Regular updates on the project.

    We'll ask about your preference (or T-shirt size) when the Kickstarter ends.

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    146 backers
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  6. Select this reward

    Pledge £30 or more About $43

    Your very own mini Eric. Enjoy a laser-cut steel model of Eric that you can build yourself. This 2D Eric model is 9 cm tall and can stand or sit.

    AND

    We will proudly display your name in the Museum for the duration of the Robots exhibition (Feb – Sep 2017).

    Plus: A thank you video from Eric and behind the scenes film + Digital photograph of Eric + Your name on our website + Regular updates on the project.

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    Ships to Only certain countries
    136 backers
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  7. Select this reward

    Pledge £50 or more About $72

    Your very own laser-cut steel model of Eric and an Eric tote bag

    AND

    We will proudly display your name in the Museum for the duration of the Robots exhibition (Feb – Sep 2017).

    Plus: A thank you video from Eric and behind the scenes film + Digital photograph of Eric + Your name on our website + Regular updates on the project.

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    Ships to Only certain countries
    31 backers
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  8. Select this reward

    Pledge £50 or more About $72

    Your very own laser-cut steel model of Eric and an Eric T-shirt

    AND

    We will proudly display your name in the Museum for the duration of the Robots exhibition (Feb – Sep 2017).

    Plus: A thank you video from Eric and behind the scenes film + Digital photograph of Eric + Your name on our website + Regular updates on the project.

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    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Only certain countries
    92 backers
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  9. Reward no longer available

    Pledge £75 or more About $108

    A limited edition engraved Aluminium offcut from the building of Eric. This is your chance to own a small piece of the same metal used for Eric's skin, engraved with its limited edition number and a thank you message

    AND

    We will proudly display your name in the Museum for the duration of the Robots exhibition (Feb – Sep 2017).

    Plus: A thank you video from Eric and behind the scenes film + Digital photograph of Eric + Your name on our website + Regular updates on the project.

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    Reward no longer available 20 backers
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  10. Select this reward

    Pledge £100 or more About $144

    You'll be one of the first to see Eric in person at the Science Museum on the evening of Wednesday 19 October 2016.

    You and a guest can hear Eric’s remarkable story from Ben Russell, Lead Curator for the Robots exhibition, and see the first demonstration of Eric before he goes on public display.

    Plus:

    Your name displayed in the Museum for the duration of the Robots exhibition (Feb – Sep 2017)

    + Eric tote bag + A thank you video from Eric and behind the scenes film + Exclusive digital photograph of Eric + Your name on our website + Regular updates on the project.

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    Limited 32 backers
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  11. Select this reward

    Pledge £200 or more About $288

    You and a guest are invited to see Eric during a private view of the Robots exhibition in February 2017 for Kickstarter backers.

    Enjoy special after-hours access to explore the Robots exhibition, marvel at Eric on display and see your name proudly displayed in the Museum for the duration of the Robots exhibition (Feb – Sep 2017).

    Plus: An Eric tote bag + A thank you video from Eric and behind the scenes film + Exclusive digital photograph of Eric + Your name on our website + Regular updates on the project.

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    Limited 7 backers
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  12. Select this reward

    Pledge £300 or more About $433

    See Eric being built by expert roboticist Giles Walker. You and a guest can visit the workshop where Eric will be built and hear Eric’s remarkable story from Ben Russell, Lead Curator for the Robots exhibition.

    AND

    An invitation for you and a guest to see Eric during a private view of the Robots exhibition in February 2017 for Kickstarter backers.

    Plus:

    Your name displayed in the Museum for the duration of the Robots exhibition (Feb – Sep 2017)

    + Eric Tote bag + A thank you video from Eric and behind the scenes film + Exclusive digital photograph of Eric + Your name on our website + Regular updates on the project.

    The visit to see Eric being built is on the morning of 6 July and will take place in London.

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  13. Select this reward

    Pledge £500 or more About $721

    Your name proudly displayed beside Eric while he is on public display in the Museum from October 2016

    AND

    An invitation for you and a guest to be one of the first to see Eric at his unveiling at the Science Museum on the evening of Wednesday 19 October 2016.

    AND

    See Eric being built by expert roboticist Giles Walker (invitation for you and a guest in July 2016).

    Plus:

    Your name displayed in the Museum for the duration of the Robots exhibition (Feb – Sep 2017)

    + Eric Tote bag + A thank you video from Eric and behind the scenes film + Exclusive digital photograph of Eric + Your name on our website + Regular updates on the project.

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    Limited 1 backer
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  14. Select this reward

    Pledge £1,000 or more About $1,442

    You and a guest are invited to the VIP opening party for the Robots exhibition on 7 February 2017. You'll be one of the first to see Eric in the Robots exhibition before it opens to the public.

    Plus:

    Your name displayed in the Museum for the duration of the Robots exhibition (Feb – Sep 2017)

    + A thank you video from Eric and behind the scenes film + Exclusive digital photograph of Eric + Your name on our website + Regular updates on the project.

    You must be available on the evening of 7 February 2017 at the Science Museum in London to receive this reward.

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    Limited 2 backers
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  15. Select this reward

    Pledge £5,000 or more About $7,210

    You’ll be the first to see Eric in the Robots exhibition on an exclusive private tour of the exhibition by Lead Curator Ben Russell for you and a guest before the exhibition opens to the public, followed by a private lunch.

    AND

    Receive a copy of the Robots exhibition book, with your name proudly displayed inside. The book features a chapter on Eric’s story, written by the relatives of Eric's creators.

    Plus:

    Your name displayed in the Museum for the duration of the Robots exhibition (Feb – Sep 2017)

    + A thank you video from Eric and behind the scenes film + Exclusive digital photograph of Eric + Your name on our website + Regular updates on the project.

    A mutually agreed date in early February will be arranged for the tour and lunch. You must be available in London to receive this reward.

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Funding period

- (37 days)