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 proficiency… » 1/19/13 8:00am 1/19/13 8:00am

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

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

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