New life has been breathed into Asia’s oldest “modern” robot, an 80-year-old golden-skinned humanoid from Osaka. Gakutensoku, a 3.2 meter (10 ft 6 in) tall automaton powered by compressed air, can tilt its head, move its eyes, smile, and puff up its cheeks and chest as instructed — just as it did 80 years ago — thanks to a 20-million-yen ($200,000) computer-controlled pneumatic servo system that replaces its original system of inflatable rubber tubes.
Built in 1928 by biologist Makoto Nishimura, Gakutensoku was first exhibited in Kyoto as part of the formal celebration of the Showa Emperor’s ascension to the throne. The robot traveled to a number of expos and wowed onlookers with its mad calligraphy skills before going missing in Germany. After a long disappearance, Gakutensoku was located and later repatriated to Osaka.