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An automaton (plural: automata) is a self-operating machine. The word is sometimes used to describe a robot.

The word is more often used to describe non-electronic moving machines, however, especially those that have been made to resemble human or animal actions, such as the jacks on old public striking clocks, or the cuckoo and any other animated figures on a cuckoo clock.

The world's first biomechanical automaton is considered to be The Flute Player, invented by the French engineer Jacques de Vaucanson in 1737.

In 1769, a chess-playing automaton called the Turk made the rounds of the courts of Europe, but in fact was a famous hoax, operated from inside by a dwarf.