As the UK’s first robot, Eric has a unique place in history. Join the Science Museum and help bring Eric back to life.
About this project
You can bring the UK’s first robot back to life.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
How will we bring Eric back to life?
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 Science Museum curator Ben Russell.
It will take Giles about three months to rebuild Eric, and we are ready to begin.
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, his 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.
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 then return to the Museum as part of our permanent collection.
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.
So join us and be part of this amazing project to bring Eric back to life.
For £25 backers and above, your name will be proudly displayed in the Museum by our Robots exhibition (from Feb-Sept 2017).
About our Robots exhibition
Our Robots exhibition, opening in February 2017, will reveal the remarkable 500-year story of humanoid robots. Featuring a unique collection of over 100 robots, from a 16th-century mechanical monk to robots from science fiction and modern-day research labs, this exhibition will enable visitors to discover the cultural, historical and technological context of humanoid robots.
Robots have been at the heart of popular culture since the word ‘robot’ was first used in 1920. Eric was one of the first robots ever built and his incredible story deserves to be told.
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.