Five early robots that transformed the auto industry

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As automotive manufacturers and suppliers take advantage of cheaper, better-skilled robots, we take a look at some early precursors. In the 1950s, engineers began developing technology that would forever change the labor-intensive automotive industry by lifting the burden of often cumbersome and dangerous jobs from humans. The following five robots may sound comically limited in scope and utility now, but they marked the dawn of a new era in auto manufacturing. - Shiraz Ahmed

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1961 -- Unimate: GM’s first industrial robot

Unimate was developed by Unimation Technologies and introduced by General Motors in 1961 at its Ternstedt plant in Trenton, N.J. The hydraulic robot became the first industrial robot used in manufacturing. According to the International Federation of Robotics, Unimate sequenced and stacked diecast automotive parts – mostly for interiors, such as window handles and light fixtures – with its 4,000- pound arm. The robot might be better known for being featured on “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson, where it poured beer and played golf. Unimate was inducted into Carnegie Mellon’s “Robot Hall of Fame” in 2003, along with other luminaries such as the Mars Pathfinder Sojourner Rover and R2-D2.

Photo credit: IFR