The word “robot” entered the world’s languages from an old Czech stage play, but actual robotics and cybernetics are playing a major role in Czech science today, Martin Rychlik writes.
The world “robot” first appeared in the play R.U.R. (1920) by Karel Čapek, whose brother Josef coined the term for a manmade worker. Robots have its etymological origin in the Slavonic word “robota”, meaning arduous work, and replaced the term for hard workers originally conceived by Čapek, “labor”. And robots are taking over the world, but no longer only as a word.
“I still have something to say about robotics – robot is a Czech word, isn’t it? – because it is a priority for me, as the minister of science and technology. Robots will be part of humanity’s future. It is a very important industrial sector in Israel and at the Czech Technical University (CTU) I have seen the local successes achieved in robotics,” Israeli minister for science Ofir Akunis, who also expressed interest in collaboration with the Czech automotive industry, told Lidové noviny in June. He was referring to the research teams of the Faculty of Electrical Engineering at CTU and the new Czech Institute of Informatics, Robotics and Cybernetics (CIIRC) in Prague. Akunis was yet another top politician to visit CIIRC, following last year’s visit by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
In addition to basic research, the new institute, at which a modern industrial testbed is being built, is focused on application and collaboration with global firms. According to CIIRC director Vladimír Mařík, it should become a sort of contact point for other local technical universities focusing on cybernetics and informatics, i.e. Brno University of Technology, the University of West Bohemia in Plzeň, Technical University of Ostrava and Technical University of Liberec. Another outstanding institution is the scientifically powerful Faculty of Mathematics and Physics at Charles University, which trains graduates who find positions at the international level, including Jan Vondrák, a computer scientist at Stanford who was married to the recently deceased Iranian mathematician Maryam Mirzakhani, the only female holder of the Fields Medal.
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