Tinkerers have been trying to recreate animated beings with mechanical technology for hundreds, maybe thousands of years. Automatons were an early version of a robot, powered by wind-up springs or flywheels. Jacques de Vaucanson made one in 1739 that caused a sensation: the Digesting Duck. It was an artificial duck, and people came out of the woodwork to see it.
Once wound up, it waddled around, drank water, played in water with its bill, and even quacked just like a real duck.
But Vaucanson’s greatest feat was designing the duck to eat a piece of corn, digest it, and poop it out.
Real corn. Real poop. Fake duck.