The Amazing Robots of Wu Yulu – Beijing, China - Atlas Obscura

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The Amazing Robots of Wu Yulu

A chinese farmer builds robots from scrap. 


In 1986 the movie Short Circuit came out and hit number one at the box office. It was the story of lovable robot Johnny 5, and perhaps the first time a robot was the protagonist of a film. That same year, halfway across the world, Wu Yulu was busy building one of his early “scrap robots” out of sewing machine parts.

Located in a small village outside of Bejing, Wu has been building scrap robots since then, creating ever more complicated creations. A Chinese farmer, Wu was too poor to afford a car. So Wu solved his transportation problem in another way. Wu built himself another, more unusual, means of transportation: he built himself a robot rickshaw driver out of junk. And it worked.

Wu has since created over 30 robots, including a climbing robot, a cigarette lighting robot, a musical robot, a tea pouring robot, a message writing robot, and even an updated Rickshaw robot that says “Wu Yulu is my dad. I take him out on the town” when it walks.

Wu’s robots are in some ways more similar to the automatons of the 1800s than to what we think of as robots, as they don’t generally employ a lot of sophisticated computer equipment and use simple mechanisms to complete their tasks.

It hasn’t all been easy for Wu, however. A battery for one of his creations exploded in his face, scarring him and briefly wiping his memory. He also accidentally burned down his home in another robot accident. None of which has discouraged him in the least.

Know Before You Go

One hour from Bejing.

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August 24, 2011

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