5) Humanoid Robotic ‘Knight’ –
Clad in heavy German-Italian medieval armor, the mechanical knight was conceived in 1495 as a humanoid automaton. We say ‘conceived’ because the machine with its internal system of pulleys, gears, levers and cranks, MIGHT have been the very first human-like robot actually created in the history of mankind – by none other than da Vinci himself. According to some accounts, this so-called robot was ceremoniously displayed at the court of Milan during a gala hosted by the city’s Duke Ludovico Sforza.
Fueled by these internal mechanisms (distributed evenly across the torso and the body’s lower-part), the Robotic ‘Knight’ supposedly had the capacity to both sit down and stand up, while also showing its ability in lifting its visor and even moving its head. And quite intriguingly, the famed roboticist Mark Rosheim (known for his contributions to NASA and Lockheed Martin) successfully built a version of this humanoid automaton in 2002 by making use of da Vinci’s drawings, discovered in 1950’s. And, the result aptly demonstrated the effectiveness of the original design with the robot being able to fluidly move and wave.
6) Armored Car –
If the Self-Propelled Cart is the precursor to modern automobiles, the Armored Car is surely the forerunner to the contemporary military tanks. Designed as a massive circular platform reinforced with sturdy metallic plates, and driven by wheels – the Armored Car was envisaged to have a crew of 8 members inside the hull. Additionally, the platform would carry an array of light cannons, with the gunner having 360 degrees field-of-view that was to be aided by a sighting turret at the top.
Suffice it to say, the entire contraption was to be powered by humans – with the men inside working upon the cranks that would make the wheels spin. Leonardo da Vinci even thought of including horses into the cranking scope; but later thought against it due to the uncontrollable nature of animals. But the most baffling part about the Armored Car is the arrangement of the cranking systems that seemingly go in opposite directions – thus ultimately making the vehicle immobile. According to some historians, this may have been an intentional flaw, since the ‘pacifist’ da Vinci didn’t want his war machines to be developed further for actual military actions.
7) Portable Revolving Bridge –
Since we talked about mobility (or lack thereof) in the previous entry, one of the da Vinci inventions entailed a revolving bridge that can be packed and hauled by armies on the move. Designed once again for his wealthy patron Ludovico Sforza (the Duke of Milan), the main advantage for this portable contrivance was that it could be swung over water bodies (like rivers and streams), thus making it easier for soldiers to make their crossing while making swift marches.
In technical terms, the bridge was envisioned to a have a counterweight tank that would make the structure balanced on both sides. As for its ease of transportation, the design was contrived to have wheels and a rope-and-pulley system for effective deployment in a short span of time.
8) Diving Suit –
Perhaps the least known of all the da Vinci inventions, the scuba gear was conceptually developed when the great inventor was working on a project in Venice. The diving gear was also envisaged as military equipment which could be used for marine-based surprise attacks on enemy vessels. To that end, the diving suit was to made from leather, and it had a special mask with two tubes (tethered to the nose area) that were connected to a cork diving bell that floated above water.
Interestingly, the diving gear was imagined in such a manner so that the mask would have an additional inflatable balloon-like device that would aid the diver to submerge or come up above the water level. This nifty gizmo was accompanied by a separate compartment in the suit that would further allow the diver to urinate in case he is working on a long underwater mission.