Bid to give robot mascot a Leeds home

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A fundraising campaign has been launched to give an eight feet tall mechanised mascot a new home in Leeds.

Council bosses, business leaders and university boffins have backed the bid by Playful Leeds to make 1950s cult figure Cygan the city’s first robot in residence.

Weighing in at more than a tonne, Italian-made Cygan goes up for auction at Christie’s on September 5. Playful Leeds are hoping to get enough funding together to buy Cygan as part of March of the Robots – their year-long celebration of all things automaton.

The guide price is £8,000-£12,000 and the campaign target is £15,000 to include fees and travel expenses.

Emma Bearman from Playful Leeds said: “People have long been fascinated by the thought that robots can make our lives easier, be that domestically in the home or through streamlining manufacturing. As robots and robotics will be such a key part of our future, we’d rather welcome them than run and hide behind the sofa.”

Cygan was created to be a domestic helper in the 1950s by Italian designer and inventor Dr Fiorito. It was remote controlled, could crush cans with its fist and even dance.

Playful Leeds hopes to restore the robot to its former glory and take him on tour around the city. If the group’s bid fails, the money will be held in trust to build a robot for Leeds supported by the University of Leeds.

Professor Ian Robertson, head of the School of Electronic and Electrical Engineering at the university, said: “This is a very exciting campaign and we look forward to playing a key part in this activity.”

Businessman and entrepreneur Dr Adam Beaumont of Leeds–based aql has already made the first pledge.

He said: “Installing a Robot in Residence to the city is a great way of bringing technology into the open.”

Coun Lucinda Yeadon, Leeds City Council’s executive member for leisure and skills, said: “This is a great initiative that epitomises the enterprising spirit of Leeds.”