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An android is a robot or synthetic organism designed to look and act like a human. The word derives from ανδρός, the genitive of the Greek ανήρ anēr, meaning “man”, and the suffix -eides, used to mean “of the species; alike” (from eidos, “species”). Though the word derives from a gender-specific root, its usage in English is usually gender neutral. The term was first mentioned by St. Albertus Magnus in 1270 and was popularized by the French writer Villiers in his 1886 novel L’Ève future, although the term “android” appears in US patents as early as 1863 in reference to miniature human-like toy automatons.

Thus far, androids have largely remained within the domain of science fiction, frequently seen in film and television. However, some humanoid robots do now exist.

The term “droid”, invented by George Lucas in Star Wars (1977) but now used widely within science fiction, originated as an abbreviation of “android”, but has been used by Lucas and others to mean any robot, including distinctly non-humaniform machines like R2-D2. Another abbreviation, “andy”, coined as a pejorative by writer Phillip K. Dick in his novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, has seen some limited further currency, e.g., in the TV series Total Recall 2070.

Unlike the terms “robot” (a “mechanical” being) and cyborg (a being that is partly organic and partly mechanical), the word “android” has been used in literature and other media to denote several different kinds of artificially constructed beings:

* a robot that closely resembles a human
* an artificially or synthetically created being that closely resembles a human; also referred to in many series (mostly anime) as Bio Android
* any machine that mimics a human

Although human morphology is not necessarily the ideal form for working robots, the fascination in developing robots that can mimic it can be found historically in the assimilation of two concepts: simulacra (devices that exhibit likeness) and automata (devices that have independence).

The term android was popularized by the French author Auguste Villiers de l’Isle-Adam in his work Tomorrow’s Eve (1886), featuring an artificial humanlike robot named Hadaly. As said by the officer in the story, “In this age of Realien advancement, who knows what goes on in the mind of those responsible for these mechanical dolls.”

Although Karel Čapek’s robots in R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots) (1921) – the play that introduced the word robot to the world – were organic artificial humans, the word “robot” has come to primarily refer to mechanical humans, animals, and other beings. The term “android” can mean either one of these, while a cyborg (“cybernetic organism” or “bionic man”) would be a creature that is a combination of organic and mechanical parts.

The word “android” is a combination of Ancient Greek andros and the suffix -oid, which literally means “in the form of a man (male human being)”. This could be contrasted with the more general term “anthropoid”, which means humanlike. According to this fashion, a female human-like robot would be a “gynoid.”

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