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This is Absolute Genius!
Dive into a world of action, adventure and explosions.
Each show, we'll introduce you to a different genius.
An amazing person, who had a genius idea which shaped the world.
And they will inspire us to come up
with our own genius idea at the end of each show.
-But, will it be any good?
-Will it be any good?!
BOTH: Absolute Genius!
'On today's show, we'll be making things go round and round...'
'Up and down,
'in and out.
'As we explore a mysterious engineering genius
'from centuries ago.
'We'll be entering a world of curious machines
'and fantastic robots.'
Today's genius was an extraordinary showman!
Yes, he built mind-blowing machines,
that were designed to entertain and impress everyone who saw them.
He lived more than 800 years ago, in a country
far, far, far-far-far, from here.
A brilliant mechanical engineer, craftsman, and an inventor.
Ladies and gentleman, we give you... Al Jazari!
Actually, boys, my full name is
Badi'al-Zaman Abu al-'Izz ibn Isma'il ibn al-Razaz Al Jazari.
-But you can call me Al.
Later on in the show, inspired by his genius,
we'll be coming up with our own genius idea.
'Yes, we'll be getting out the power tools...'
'Precision engineering a machine with just one purpose...'
But now, let's find out more about this mysterious man.
Al Jazari was born in the year 1136 in the Middle East,
roughly where the country of Iraq is today.
He spoke the language of Arabic
and worked as the chief engineer for a Middle-Eastern king.
Al Jazari's genius was designing and building extraordinary machines!
We know about him because of a brilliant book he wrote called...
In it, he shows a great understanding of engineering ideas
that are still very important today.
And it's also packed with amazing designs of mechanical human figures,
machines that are some of the world's first ever robots.
Very few copies of Al Jazari's book have actually survived.
Which is why we've come here.
This building is the Bodleian Library in Oxford University.
And it holds some of the oldest and most valuable books in the world.
This amazing library contains 11 million books
and is more than 400 years old.
But the book we're going to see is even older than that.
Meet Professor Salim Al-Hassani,
an expert on the ideas and machines of Al Jazari.
So, Professor, what is this beautiful-looking book?
This is a copy of a book written by Al Jazari
entitled The Book Of Knowledge Of Ingenious Mechanical Devices.
-It's about 500 years old.
-A 500-year-old copy!
What was the date of the original?
Something like 1206.
And what does it actually contain? What's it about?
It's about all sorts of machines and devices,
and robots, clocks, water-raising machines.
What kind of machines did Al Jazari invent?
I can show you one. Let's have a look. This is a model.
This model is battery-operated.
But the original machine would have been driven by animal power.
This is a water-raising machine,
which shows us a fantastic original principle
of how to convert rotary motion into a linear motion,
which you can find in so many machines today.
As the animal turns this round, it's converting the motion up and down.
Ah, so what's happening is that a circular motion
-is being turned into an up-and-down motion.
-Ah, very good.
Now, on Al Jazari's original water-raising machine,
there would have been a big spoon at the end of the rod
to scoop up the water.
This ingenious device uses what's known as
a crank-and-connecting-rod mechanism
and Al Jazari was a pioneer in using this system.
And that engineering principle of converting a circular movement
into a vertical or horizontal one,
is still used in lots of machines today.
-Could we see this in the modern day?
-If you know where to look for it.
I think there's only one person who can find this for us.
-Back in a moment.
Back in a minute. Don't go anywhere.
Our genius scientist Fran explains things in ways even
we can understand.
Best of all, she loves a good experiment.
And she's guaranteed to pop up just when you need her most.
-Where are we?
-Well, by the looks of it, we're at a tractor dealership,
-somewhere near Walsall in the West Midlands.
-Oh, yeah. Where's Fran?
-Ah, that's a first, isn't it?!
-Isn't it just!
-It's brilliant, isn't it!
It is brilliant. But why are you driving a tractor?
Well, inside a tractor is a bit of engineering
that Al Jazari would actually recognise.
-Can we take a look, then?
-Yep. Come with me.
You know about the crank- and-connecting-rod mechanism?
OK, so that's the mechanism where one part goes round and round...
And the other bit goes up and down.
It can happen the other way round.
You can have one part of it going from side to side or up and down,
and that causes another part of the machine
to start rotating or turn around and around.
That is, basically, how tractors work. Let's take a look underneath.
-It's very oily.
Can you see it?
-You see that thing going round and round?
That's the crankshaft,
-and that eventually turns the wheels of the tractor.
But connected to the crankshaft, are connecting rods
-and they're what make the crankshaft go round and round.
-They go up and down.
-You can see them connected to the pistons.
Yep, if we go up, let's go up again... So, here are the pistons.
-And can you see them going up and down?
Now, these pistons are connected to the connecting rods.
That's why they're called "connecting rods".
They make the crankshaft turn around,
which makes the wheels of the tractor move.
Ah, that goes right back to Al Jazari then?
Yeah, and it's not just tractors that use this mechanism.
Every single modern car makes its wheels turn in this way.
Cheers, Fran, we best go because we have got a professor waiting for us.
Ah, right good. Now, we understand that. Thank you.
-What other machines did Al Jazari invent?
-I'll show you one.
It's an ingenious one. It's called the Elephant Clock.
-That's a clock?
-That can tell the time?
That is a beautiful, beautiful illustration.
-What's going on here then?
-This is an elephant.
And on top of the elephant there is a sort of castle.
And the way it tells the time is a sequence of events,
motion that is triggered from inside the elephant.
It's not a real elephant, it's a machine.
Inside the elephant, a leaky bowl sinks in a tank of water.
Strings attached to the bowl trigger a series of clever mechanisms.
You can't put it on your wrist, but it does actually tell the time!
The Elephant Clock is Al Jazari's most famous invention,
and like lots of his machines,
it was designed to be both impressive to watch
and almost too complicated to understand.
The way that he had built them,
and the colours that he used, they are meant to impress people.
So, whilst he was a master craftsman,
he was also a bit of a showman.
He liked extravagance within his creations.
Indeed, that's why they are called "ingenious devices".
I see! One thing I've noticed with a lot of his designs,
-is that they have little figures on them.
-Are they actual people?
They're actually what we call today "robots".
But we refer to them as "automaton".
Al Jazari's automatons were mechanical models
of human beings and animals.
They're one of the earliest examples of what we now call robots.
Automatons. Are there any around in existence today?
There are none but there are people who can make similar automatons.
Now, THIS we should go and see.
Later on, we'll be playing with an incredibly talented robot.
But now, here are some other brilliant ideas
and discoveries from the Middle East.
It's the Genius Top Five! Five - blood circulation.
How our bodies pump blood between the heart and lungs
was first understood in the 13th century
by a man called Ibn al-Nafis in Damascus.
Four - algebra.
Not those clever ancient Greek mathematicians,
but al-Khwarizmi, a brilliant bloke from Baghdad.
I'm clever, squared!
Three - staying in to wash my hair.
Yes, shampooing was first practised
-by a Sake Mahomed from Patna in India.
Two - coffee.
Discovered 1,200 years ago by Kaldi, a goat herder,
who noticed his animals getting excitable
after eating some strange red berries.
One - the hospital.
The first organised hospital with free medical treatment
was built in Cairo in the year 872 AD.
Oi, no goats!
Back to our genius.
Now, none of the original machines made by Al Jazari exist today.
But the kind of automatons he made can be found -
if you know where to look.
Here in the middle of Kimberley Park in Falmouth, Cornwall
is a great example.
Yes, look, a mechanical goat!
-It's just what every kid wants in their playground!
And not only does it move but... Keep turning it, keep turning it!
-I'm doing it.
-It makes a sound. Are you ready for the big noise?
BOTH LAUGH I wonder who made this?
That gaseous goat is the kind of automaton that Al Jazari
would have put on his machines hundreds of years ago.
But we used camels in those days.
We've come to meet a modern day Al Jazari
in this remote village in Cornwall...
This is master automata-maker, Paul Spooner.
Paul, you're the man behind the goat that we've just seen in the park?
-It is fantastic!
-But it's not all about goats, is it?
What does an automata-maker like you do?
My plan is to use machinery to tell a story or a joke.
-Make people laugh, mostly.
-So, very much like Al Jazari?
-To impress people and entertain people.
-It's entertaining, yeah.
Have you got a lot in common with Al Jazari and his work?
All people who make mechanical things have something in common.
All of this stuff, with cranks and gears and cams,
it really is just one thing pushing another thing...
But I'm just astonished
at how somebody COULD have made the things that he did.
I mean, they were made with enormous precision.
You know, I've got things like this gauge here
that I can use to tell you that this screwdriver
-is 5.91 millimetres in diameter.
-He didn't have one of them!
He wouldn't have one of those, no!
We're dying to have a look at some of your amazing work.
-Can we have a look?
-We promise to be careful.
-This is called an Allegory Of Love.
-Oh, yes, very good.
Look at all the workings inside!
However hard he tries, he's never going to get that nail in.
Oh, right, licking at the splat of milk.
There you go.
It was poisoned.
-All in one turning motion.
I don't quite know what's happening on this one. Let's have a look.
But they're all using the same principle.
This mechanism that Al Jazari came up with hundreds of years ago.
-The Science Of Conversation.
The king's talking, he's chattering quite a lot, but...
Oh! His brain's come out!
-They share a brain, you see?
-And then, she can talk.
Paul, that is absolutely mind-blowing!
I love your work, Paul.
Playtime over. Now, with Paul's help,
we're going to make our very own Al Jazari-inspired game.
It's got bits of wood.
Exactly the same length. See?
About right, anyway.
It's got currant buns.
It's even got an elephant automaton.
I can't wait to play this!
Ah, look, there it is. Our very own crank-and-connecting rod.
If you remember Al Jazari's water-raising machine,
this is all the same principles.
It's got circular motion, which makes an up-and-down motion.
Up, down, circular, up and down.
-Here it is.
-Piece de resistance.
You'll recognise this from Al Jazari's book. The elephant.
-And finally the elephant's tail. Finished.
-How does it work?
-Right, well, as the ball comes up.
-That's the Al Jazari bit.
-That is a very Al Jazari bit.
So, it trickles down the nails.
Goes in one of the gutters.
Ah, you don't know which side it's going to go.
You don't know which side.
And it flips a string and it triggers the elephant's bottom
or the elephant's trunk.
It's either bum or bun!
That's the kind of game.
Precisely, yes. That was my concept.
-Either a bun comes out of the trunk or it poos into a bowl!
Bun or bum. Bun or bum. Bun or bum...
I'm afraid it's going to be...
-Bum for you!
-Here we go, go on.
-We've got one this time.
-Yeah. Watch the trunk.
There's one of our lovely painted currant buns.
# Bum, bum, bum, bum, bum
# Bum-bum-bum-bum-bum bum-bum-bum, bum
# Bum-bum-bum, bum, bum, bum-bum. #
Now, THAT was inspiring!
Yeah, but what we haven't found yet is an example of a modern-day robot
with a touch of Al Jazari about it.
Ah, Paul's given us a tip-off.
He knows someone who can make exactly what we're after ...
'We've seen that Al Jazari built machines to impress.
'And that his genius engineering can be still be found today.
'Coming up, we unleash the power tools.'
-It's going to cause some damage that, innit?
'This humble industrial estate in Penryn, Cornwall, is home
'to some of the most sophisticated humanoid robots in the world.'
Look at these!
Hello, pleased to meet you.
Hello, boys! Welcome, welcome!
-Delighted to meet you.
-Delighted to meet you, too.
Now, which one is Ant, and which one is Dec?
-I can never remember.
-I'll rip your batteries out.
-I'm only joking!
I'm actually a big fan. Hey, Dick, what's that on the end of your nose?
Is it a bogey? A bogey!
Oh, a sense of humour, as well!
Well, that's because I'm not just any old robot.
-Oh, he likes you.
What's Robothespian? What do you do?
I am fully programmable interactive humanoid robot
designed to inspire, communicate, interact, and entertain.
But, like you, gentlemen, I am, at heart, a performer!
Well, yes, we can see that.
But have you heard of this genius engineer, Al Jazari,
who invented an early kind of robot hundreds of years ago?
Ah, yes, the great Al Jazari.
He's responsible for some of my distant ancestors.
Of course, robotics has come a long way since those days.
Yeah, but what we want to know is, who invented YOU?
Ah, now, that was Will.
This is Will Jackson...
# I'm singing in the rain... #
He invented the very first Robothespian
and has been building robots since he was 13 years old.
Will, Robothespian is quite mind-blowing.
But how does it actually work?
He's a big collection of motors, and muscles and wiring.
But you can control the whole thing from this touch screen.
Let's try one...
# Ah, ah, ah, ah staying alive, staying alive
# You can tell by the way I use my walk, I'm a woman's man
# No time to talk. #
Fair enough... Clever stuff. What else can it do, Will?
Here's another impression that Robothespian can do.
'Oh, yes, Master Luke.
Remember that I am fluent in over six million forms of communication.
I beg your pardon, General Solo, but that just wouldn't be proper.
It's against my programming to impersonate a deity.
-C3PO from Star Wars!
You've got a robot doing an impression of a robot?
It's amazing. It's like he's almost human.
Yes, we really have tried to design Robothespian
to be just like a human.
-If you feel his arms there, they're quite soft and bouncy.
It's not like an industrial robot that's a very rigid machine.
We want him to be flexible.
The way the hands move is totally human-like.
One really important thing is the robot must make eye contact.
He's looking around. He's watching me.
He's trying to guess your age.
Oh, this is what he's watching, right now.
Go and stand round there and see if he can guess your age. Age 25.
It's cos I'm short!
27! It's taken ten years off me!
So, this is great, because you can see a clear camera image of us.
But what's this next to it?
Here, he's trying to guess where your bones are basically.
-What kind of pose you're in.
'Robothespian can be programmed to do lots of other brilliant stuff.'
OK, so we can write anything? 'Anyone can write a script for it.'
-Press this one?
'And it can speak 30 different languages!'
But does it speak Arabic?
IT SAYS "ABSOLUTE GENIUS" IN ARABIC
'And it knows talent when it sees it.'
I love Dick. He is the best one.
The other one is too small and hairy.
And the engineering Will and his team are using
is making not just one Robothespian,
but lots of Robothespians!
This is a robot production line.
Will, being here has been a fantastic experience.
but Robothespian is a long way
from the original automaton that Al Jazari created.
Does he have anything in common with them?
You can find some things that go all the way back to Al Jazari's designs.
If we have a look at this jaw mechanism here,
we'll see the little disc driving a lever here,
converting a circular motion into an up-and-down motion for his jaw.
Which was part of his genius, wasn't it? Circular motion
-turning into an up-and-down motion?
You see, boys. Some ideas are so good they're still used today.
Robothespian is an incredible piece of machinery. It really is!
So brilliant that it's inspired us to come up with
our own genius robot idea.
This is great because Robothespian can speak different languages.
It can do impressions. It can sing.
But one thing that it can't do, yet, is travel.
Hmm, yes. So, we should make a robot that can move, and move fast.
It's going to be our tribute to Al Jazari
but with some of our own unique ideas thrown in.
A robot that can stand up for itself when the going gets tough.
A robot that can go into battle!
Before we build our genius robot...
It's time for the Not So Genius Idea!
Not all robots are clever.
In fact, to enter the International Stupid Robot Championships,
a robot has to be both useless and funny.
Recent entries include...
a hula-hooping robot powered by an electric drill.
A pair of shivering robots that live in a fridge.
And the Binbot, a mechanical wheelie-bin that follows flies!
That's just rubbish!
Another day, another robot workshop.
Welcome back genius engineer Grant Cooper.
He's helped us before on Absolute Genius,
and building robots is his speciality.
-All right, Grant? How are you doing?
-OK, there, guys?
-I thought we were mates!
'This is one of Grant's latest creations.
'It's called Attacknid, a kind of robotic giant spider.
'And it's just given birth!'
'Let's just watch that again.'
Grant, over the past few days,
we've been massively inspired by the great Al Jazari.
Yeah, he made an early kind of robot.
And we want to make our own robot.
What sort of robot is it you want to create?
You're king of robots, right? You make the best robots.
We don't necessarily need anything that's sophisticated
or beautiful to look at.
But something that's tough, strong, and can go into battle.
Something like a combat, fighting robot, cos that's our forte.
That's what you do best. Yeah, yeah, absolutely.
It's got to have engineering that dates back to Al Jazari's machines.
-I'm sure we can sort something out.
-Good stuff. Let's get to work.
Our Genius idea - to build our own fighting robot from scratch!
The challenge - to include clever engineering gizmos
that the great Al Jazari would recognise.
But where his machines impressed with their looks,
ours will be all about the action!
The problem - if our robot's not good enough,
it could get smashed to pieces!
Smashed to pieces!
'There's loads to do!'
Now, I've messed that up, what do we have to do?
We'll need to grind that off. Start again. I'll go and get the grinder.
'And let's not forget...
'the precision metal-cutting.'
ELEGANT WALTZ PLAYS
-This is the weapon.
-Look at that.
Powering our weapon is this big DC motor. That's three horsepower.
-Three horsepower, OK.
-So, Al Jazari would recognise that mechanism?
It's used in a different way, but on exactly the same principles.
It's going to cause some damage, that!
Oh, perfect fit! Round, round, round, circular motion,
which causes this to go up and down.
-Nice! All finished.
-Love it when a plan comes together.
-If you wiggle those sticks.
-Just like a remote-control car?
That's the remote control for the car part of it,
but what about the Al Jazari magic?
You'll have a joystick here. Forwards to fire it.
'So, there'll be two joysticks. One to control driving our robot.
'The other to operate its weapon!
-Right, time to go into battle!
Come on, then, let's go into battle.
To battle, boys!
Here's our robot opponent, Beauty 2!
Operating it are fighting-robot veterans John Lear and Kane Aston.
Like taking candy off a baby!
Like that, is it?!
Well, um... Pppbbbt!
We're going to have ya!
I fart in your general direction!
'Our fighting robot is named Stingray.
'It's just itching to give Beauty 2 a battering!'
Three, two, one.
Stingray gets in an early hit, but then Beauty 2 flips him.
Yes, go, go!
'Flipped again. He's making pancakes!
'The crowd are loving this.'
Ah, ha, ha, ha! Yes!
'Flipped again! But Stingray's fighting back!'
Forward! Don't let him flip you!
-He's weighing you up! Why's he gone all quiet...?
He flipped him!
No, get out the way!
'Stingray's hammer just keeps missing!'
Oh, getting a mashing!
-No, we're not moving.
-What do you mean we're not moving?
'Another hit from Stingray, but something seems to be wrong.'
I think it's stalled. Why's it not moving, Grant?
It looks like the amount of flips and hits you've taken from Beauty 2
has bent your wheels in. So, sadly, you're out.
-They've literally smashed us.
-Yeah, you're out.
We did some damage, though not enough.
It's a good bit of kit that, though, Grant.
A mighty machine! Old Stingray.
It has been the best experience exploring the genius of Al Jazari.
From cranks and connecting rods to elephant automatons,
we've seen how his ideas are still being used today
to make machines that are clever and entertaining.
And how his influence can be found
in one of the most impressive robots in the world.
Well, I think it's quite clear that after these incredible few days
learning about Al Jazari,
that we now officially LOVE robots! Mwah!
And it all goes back to Al Jazari.
Thank you, Al. You are an absolute genius!
Oh, you're so kind.
Ah! It smacked me in the face!
What are you doing?!
Let me get it straight!
What's all that black stuff?