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One of the world's first true robots has sold for $27,660 at auction

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Its name is Cygan — and it certainly doesn't look like much. But this robot from the 1950s was state-of-the art back in its day. It has now been sold to a U.K. buyer for much more than anticipated.

Cygan was built in Italy in 1957 by designer Ing Fiorito and then brought to the U.K. where it was renamed Gygan.


And it wasn't just some elaborate prop. The machine could be controlled by shortwave radio, was powered by a 28-volt battery, weighed an entire ton, stood 8-foot tall, and was assembled from an astounding 300,000 parts. Remarkably, the range for its remote control reached an entire mile.


Designed as a domestic helper, Cygan could crush cans and dance with a partner (who stood on its feet). It moved around by shuffling its wheeled feet forward or backward, move its head and arms, and even respond to voice and (reportedly) light commands. Its maximum speed was 10 feet per minute, so it wasn't what you'd call a threat to humanity.

Regrettably, Cygan's electronics have been removed. But that didn't deter a U.K. buyer who beat a crowdfunding effort on SpaceHive launched by a group looking to secure the vintage machine as a "Robot in Residence" in Leeds.

Christie's organizers estimated a sale price between 8,000 pounds to 12,000 pounds ($12,000 to $18,000) — so the final price of 17,500 pounds ($27,660) came as a complete surprise.


[BBC, CNET; image: Christie's]