There are three main branches of robotics today. Although they all share the same origins, in the mid-1900s robots break into three categories: Industrial, Research, and Educational.
- 1890s: Nikola Tesla designs the first remote control vehicles. He is also known for his invention of the radio, induction motors, Tesla coils.
- 1892: In the United States, Seward Babbitt designs a motorized crane with gripper to remove ingots from a furnace.
- 1921: The first reference to the word robot appears in a play opening in London, entitled Rossum's Universal Robots. The word robot comes from the Czech word, robota, which means drudgery or slave-like labor. Czech playwright Karel Capek first used this term when describing robots that helped people with simple, repetitive tasks. Unfortunately, when the robots in the story were used in battle, they turn against their human owners and take over the world.
- 1938: Americans Willard Pollard and Harold Roselund design a programmable paint-spraying mechanism for the DeVilbiss Company.
- 1940s: Grey Walters creates an early robot called Elsie the tortoise, or Machina speculatrix.
- 1941: Science fiction writer Isaac Asimov first uses the word "robotics" to describe the technology of robots and predicts the rise of a powerful robot industry.
- 1942: Asimov writes a story about robots, Runaround, which contains the "Three laws of robotics".