Early 20th Century Robots: Sparko, The Robotic Scottish Terrier
    By Hank Campbell | March 30th 2011 08:07 PM | 1 comment | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Hank

    I'm the founder of Science 2.0®.

    A wise man once said Darwin had the greatest idea anyone ever had. Others may prefer Newton or Archimedes...

    View Hank's Profile
    At the 1939 World’s Fair, Westinghouse, which had an interest in robotics even a decade before, unveiled two robot prototypes: a humanoid named Elektro and a dog named Sparko.

    Elektro was able to walk, count and smoke cigarettes (which likely did not make his voice raspy, since he talked using a record player) while Sparko was able to sit up and bark.  Take that, G.E.!

    elektro and sparko GE 1939 early robots
    Sparko and Elektro.   The big guy was 7 feet tall and weighed 300 lbs.  No wonder science fiction was scary.   

    Sparko is an English terrier, if you cannot tell, and Nicolas Nova informs us he was created by Westinghouse engineer Joseph Barnett.    Mostly Forbidden Zone has this nifty diagram of Sparko:

    Sparko the robotic dog

    But while a restored Elektro is now comfortably ensconced in the Mansfield Memorial Museum in Ohio, no one has seen Sparko since 1957.   Neatorama says 
    The last confirmed sighting of Sparko was in California in 1957. The dogs were light-followers and legend has it that one of the three dogs was hit by a car and destroyed when it wandered out of an open door at the Westingouse lab.
    So if you see a robotic dog wandering around the neighborhood, please let the folks at know about it.

    If you can't visualize him from still pictures, here is some footage from the 1939 World's Fair:


    "The dogs were light followers"? How would this have been possible with 1930s technology? The only method of optical input these days would have been a photo cell, and they would not have been able to ascertain the direction the light was coming from.