Shakey: The World's First Mobile Intelligent Robot
Mon, April 19, 2021

Shakey: The World's First Mobile Intelligent Robot

Shakey is significant because its control software was structured in a layered architecture / Photo Credit: Tatyaby (via Shutterstock)


Shakey was the world’s first mobile intelligent robot developed at the Artificial Intelligence Center of the Stanford Research Institute (SRI) from 1966 to 1972, said Gil Press of business news website Forbes. SHAKEY “could perceive its surroundings, infer implicit facts from explicit ones, create plans, recover from errors in plan execution, and communicate using ordinary English,” as said in a 2017 IEEE Milestone citation. It added that the robot’s “software architecture, computer vision, and methods for navigation and planning proved seminal in robotics and in the design of web servers, automobiles, factories, video games, and Mars rovers.”

 Charles Rosen, head of the AI group at SRI, wrote a memo in November 1963 saying that he proposed the development of a mobile “automation” that would combine both "pattern-recognition and memory capabilities of neural networks with advanced AI programs,” according to Nils Nilsson’s book “The Quest for Artificial Intelligence.” SRI submitted to the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) at the US Department of Defense a proposal for research in “Intelligent Automata” in April 1964. The proposal claimed it would lead to “the development of machines that will perform tasks that are presently considered to require human intelligence.” ARPA then awarded SRI “a rather large contract” with the start date of March 17, 1966. Later on, Rosen remembered the origin of the robot’s name. He said they worked for a month trying to come up names for the robot, but since it shakes and moves around, they just called it Shakey.”

Historically speaking, Shakey is significant because its control software was structured in a layered architecture, which was a first for robots. This became a model for subsequent robots. Its computer vision, planning, and navigation methods have been used not only in subsequent robots, but also in various consumer and industrial applications. Lastly, Shakey motivated later developers to create more advanced robots.

For SRI, the robot’s historical significance and “legendary status” lies in Shakey’s unique “combination of robotics and AI into one system.” In fact, you can thank it for inspiring numerous technologies such as GPS, self-driving vehicles, cellphones, and the Roomba.