Cybernetic tortoise, c 1950.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
This 'tortoise', invented by William Grey Walter at the Burden Neurological Institute in Bristol, was an 'artificial animal' designed to investigate brain functions and was a landmark in both robotics and cybernetics. Given the name 'Machina speculatrix', it was designed to behave like a simple animal. Wired to display certain characteristics, it could travel around floors, manoeuvre to avoid obstacles, and was equipped with a photo-receptor so it would approach moderate light but avoid bright illumination.