Automata Is Brilliantly Original Science Fiction, Ruined By Cliches

We all cry out for original genre movies that aren't just cashing in on existing franchises. But it's sad when an original film comes out, and it just rehashes the classics, even more slavishly. It's even more heartbreaking when you get a movie like Automata, which has a clever, original idea. And smothers it in… » 10/10/14 12:26pm 10/10/14 12:26pm

Automata Trailer Shows Off A Robot Action Movie That Gets Robots Right

We'll be honest, we did not know much about Antonio Banderas and Gabe Ibáñez's Automata, but this trailer has us very, very excited about this robot movie. From what we can tell, Automata appears to be twisting around Asimov's laws of robitcs, which is great. Also, we're really happy to see that the robots look like… » 8/20/14 2:20pm 8/20/14 2:20pm

Does this Marie Antoinette automaton dream of mechanical cake?

David Roentgen was the 18th century's most celebrated cabinetmaker, famous for adding mechanical fittings and secret drawers to his ornate furniture. In 1784, he surprised his patron, France's King Louis XVI with this marvelous automaton of his queen, Marie Antoinette, playing the dulcimer. The mechanical… » 1/19/13 8:00am 1/19/13 8:00am

This 450-year-old clockwork monk is fully operational

This stern mechanical monk is a marvel of early automation; likely built in the 1560s, it is a completely self-acting device, with all of its clockwork mechanisms hidden beneath its cloak. Today, the clockwork monk can still scoot about, moving its mouth and arms in silent prayer. » 11/03/12 10:00am 11/03/12 10:00am

10 Hilarious and Unsexy Historical Erotic Toys

Back in the day, our ancestors didn't have access to the cornucopia of smut that is essentially the entire internet. No, in terms of prurient high technology, they had to make do with bizarre clockwork doohickeys that depicted tiny manikins furiously humping away. Here are ten of our favorite sexual automata of yore. » 9/11/12 10:10am 9/11/12 10:10am

The 5 Most Unpleasant And Undignified Ways To Die In Ancient Times

Antiquity was the pits. For every advancement in philosophy or mathematics, you had half a dozen crazed aristocrats high on mercury potions trying to remove your limbs in bold new ways. Here are five particularly egregious ways to kick it centuries ago — they involve (among many things) honey, wine, eels, and… » 9/06/12 10:20am 9/06/12 10:20am

For $5,000, you can own a terrifying band of hillbilly robots

Hey hypothetical insane billionaire, do you have five large burning a hole in your tissue box pocket that just needs to escape? Have we got the purchase for you — a musical band of four leering animatronic yokels, courtesy of that miracle machine eBay. Mount these guys on your flatbed hovercraft and show those stuffed… » 8/07/12 4:50pm 8/07/12 4:50pm

Who wants to own this creepy robotic version of da Vinci's The Last…

Do you have $15,000 to blow on disconcerting old automata? Well, have we a bargain for you! For a mere $10-$15K, you can win this automaton recreation of Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper, complete with a tiny mechanical Judas plotting away. Here's the auction description and a nine-minute video detailing the… » 5/28/12 9:30am 5/28/12 9:30am

10 Ridiculously Unsettling Old-Timey Robots

Nowadays everyone hems and haws about the uncanny valley, but we don't realize how good we have it in the 21st century. Decades ago, anthropomorphic machines and animal-like automata straddled the line between goofy and "I did not sign up for this." Here's some irrefutable proof that machines have been planning our… » 5/09/12 11:40am 5/09/12 11:40am

Creepy old Cleopatra robot will wriggle into your darkest dreams

I'm not sure who built this shudder-worthy automaton of Cleopatra getting nipped by asps, but according to House of Automata, this phantasmagoric clip is from a 1976 documentary on ye olde robots. It looks like a charming conversation piece, particularly if you wish to expedite boring dinner parties. » 9/12/11 3:15pm 9/12/11 3:15pm

Watch a short film about Japan's 300-year-old handmade robots

Filmmaker Matthew Allard has made this lovely little interview with craftsman Hideki Higashino, who specializes in the creation of Karakuri, or automata dating back to Japan's Edo period. Don't worry, they're a helluva lot less freaky than medieval European automata. » 7/16/11 8:30am 7/16/11 8:30am

19th century mechanical French harp player is absolutely unnerving

We recently looked at devilish automata from the 15th century; here's Gustave Vichy's mildly terrifying mechanical harpist, which was built in Paris in 1880. Her golden harp is invisible to the living; you can only see it on your deathbed. » 5/08/11 9:45am 5/08/11 9:45am

In the 15th century, Satanic automata wigged out churchgoers

Automata were... theologically and culturally familiar, things with which one could be on easy terms.

They were funny, sometimes bawdy, and they were everywhere... Mechanical devils were...rife. Poised in sacristies, they made horrible faces, howled and stuck out their tongues to instill fear in the hearts of…

» 4/23/11 1:30pm 4/23/11 1:30pm

History's Greatest Robot Hoaxes

From our earliest dreams of golems and Galatea, people have wanted to create artificial beings with human characteristics and abilities. But in our haste to see a future of walking, talking mechanical humanoids, we're easily fooled by con artists looking to exploit our sense of wonder. Hoaxers and engineers, magicians… » 9/23/08 12:12pm 9/23/08 12:12pm