Every year, American retailer Macy's has hosted a massive, three-hour celebratory parade on Thanksgiving Day. Situated in New York City, it's one of the oldest Thanksgiving parades in the United States, and one of the most watched. The event originally came about when a group of first-generation immigrants expressed a desire to celebrate their newfound heritage. By 1924, the first Macy's parade was held by one Louis Bamberger in Newark, New Jersey.
Eventually, Bamberger's store was transferred by Macy's to New York, where it continued hosting the parade year after year.
In short, this is a celebration that's been around for quite a while; one which has seen a great deal of technological change. It's been held through World War II, through the development of working electricity, and through the birth of the Internet. In that time, it's changed a fair bit - but one of the greatest changes may have occurred earlier today, when the historic parade was kicked off not by a living, breathing human, but by a robot.
Developed as part of the 2013 FIRST Robotics competition, "SONIC," as the robot is known, was created by a group of students who are part of a robotics club from the Woodlands High School in Texas known as "Texas Torque." Like the other bots in the contest, SONIC was designed to participate in a game known as "Ultimate Ascent."
SONIC wasn't the only robot in attendance, either. Several other teams from across the country - all of whom participated in the competition - were there. Their robots started by shooting confetti along the parade route, at which point all teams (along with their robots) will march along the entire parade route, ending at Macy's Square.
"We are extremely excited and thankful for this unique opportunity that Macy's has given us," explained FIRST founder Dean Kamen. "Tuning into the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is an American tradition, and this year the first thing people will see in the parade is FIRST. Thanks to Macy's, we have the chance to pique the curiosity of millions of young people, as well as potential Mentors, sponsors, and Volunteers."
Along with Texas Torque, the parade also featured The Holy Cows from San Diego, California; S.P.A.M. from Stuart, Florida; The Bomb Squad from Mountain Home, Arkansas; and Raider Robotix from North Brunswick, New Jersey. All robots were modified for the parade.