The concept of robotics dates back to the Ancient Greeks at least. Greek mythology had at least one instance of robots, as the mechanical servants of the Greek god of technology, fire, and the forge, Hephaestus. In another Greek myth, Pygmalion, a master sculptor from Cyprus, crafts a statue named Galatea that comes to life. Around 350 BC, a brilliant Greek mathematician, Archytas, built a mechanical bird, "the Pigeon," that could fly through the air on steam power. This is one of the first known milestones in the development of the field, as well as the first recorded model airplane.
Many centuries later, in the late 1700s and early 1800s, the Industrial Revolution hit. This was fueled by steam power and extensive automation, especially in the production of textiles. The automated loom, invented in 1801, operated using punched card input. A couple decades later, in 1822, Charles Babbage introduced a prototype of his "Difference Engine" to the Royal Astronomical Society in Britain. Inspired by the automated loom, this machine also operated based on punch cards, but Babbage died before a production model could be built. Today, Babbage is known as the "Father of Computing," and all robots use computers for their "brains."
The modern era of robotics begins around 1959, when John McCarthy and Marvin Minsky established the Artificial Intelligence lab at MIT. A couple years later, Heinrich Erst created the first modern robotic hand, and in 1962, Unimate, the first industrial robot, was created to perform repetitive or dangerous tasks on the assembly line of General Motors. In 1966, the Stanford Research Institute created Shakey, the first mobile robot to know and react to its own actions. In 1967, Richard Greenblatt wrote MacHack, the first chess-playing program, in reaction to an article by Herbert Dreyfuss that argued that a computer would never beat him at chess.
The next few decades saw additional developments in robotics. Stanford University built the Stanford cart, an intelligent line-follower, in 1970, and in 1974 Victor Scheinman created the Silver Arm, an arm capable of assembling machines from small parts using touch sensors. Further advances occurred in 1977, when NASA launched the highly automated Voyager probes to explore the outer solar system.
The cutting edge of robotics continued to refine the speed and precision of robotic manipulators while creating prototypes of humanoid robots. In 1986, Honda started a humanoid robotics program, being represented by the prototype ASIMO, which had 11 versions from 1986 through 2008. In 2008, the robot had advanced to the point of being able to follow along with a human by holding hands, recognize its environment, distinguish sounds, and observe moving objects.