An automaton can be a physical or software structure that operates according to strict heuristic or probabilistic rules without the conscious intervention of a human being. Traditionally automatons are mechanical devices that imitate human beings or animals, and mime scenes. In industry, automatons are programmable devices that perform certain tasks.
Jacques de Vaucanson's duck, made in 1738 with the mechanism that made it work. It drinks, eats, defecates and beats its wings to movements that can be programmed. © Public domain