Remember Rosie the Robot, George Jetson’s trusty maid? Well, Rosie had nothing on AROK, the robotic assistant created by Chicagoan Ben Skora in the late 1970s. Weighing in at 275 pounds and standing 6 feet, 8 inches, tall, AROK (that’s “Skora” spelled backward, minus the “s”) could vacuum—and lift 150 pounds, answer the door, and serve drinks. (Take that, Roomba!)
Skora was famous throughout Chicagoland for his inventions and his tricked-out home, which featured talking toilet seats (reminding visitors to put the lid down), hidden mannequin hands proffering soap, and a revolving performance stage, among other innovations. The centerpiece, however, was AROK, who functioned as a local celebrity making appearances at store openings. Eventually, AROK’s fame spread to Hollywood, and Skora and his invention appeared on The Merv Griffin Show and other talk shows.
How AROK worked
AROK was powered by two 12-volt car batteries. His “face” was a Halloween mask, which had to frequently be replaced thanks to a melting hazard. Inside the robot were 15 electronic motors along with 35 relays, hundreds of integrated circuits, a microphone, and a speaker. Skora controlled AROK using FM radio signals and a remote control.
According to the April 1977 issue of Interface Age magazine, Skora decided to pursue robotics as early as 1949, when he became fed up with warming up his car on frigid Chicago mornings. He invented a device that allowed him to heat up the car from the comfort of his home. Eventually, his inventive nature led him to home automation and the creation of AROK.
Sadly, Skora had to move into an assisted living facility in 2013, and his home has since been torn down. His family discovered AROK in the basement and donated him to Moraine Valley Community College in Palos Hills, Illinois.
To truly appreciate the wonder of AROK and Skora’s playful inventiveness, check out this clip from Ripley’s Believe It or Not. (Bonus: It’s hosted by a young Dean Cain.)