The Hopkins Beast

The Hopkins Beast was a mobile robot built in the 1960s at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. Like Norbert Wiener’s Moth and Grey Walter’s “tortoises,” the Hopkins Beast was cybernetic, relying on signals, feedback and control systems to govern its responses and movements.

The Hopkins Beast used photocell optics and sonar to navigate the rooms and halls of the Applied Physics Laboratory, while searching for black coloured charging outlets that would allow it to plug-in, charge and then continue its exploration. Stairways, doors, pipes and other obstacles were recognized by ultrasonic transducers and appropriate actions were taken to avoid collision or entrapment. This demonstration of multiple co-ordinated behaviours most closely resembles something like the capacity of a large nucleated cell.

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APL Motion Picture Project, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, The Hopkins Beast Mobile Automaton, 1965, film transferred to video, 4:08 min., JHU Applied Physics Lab