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Home » Electronics

Robot

A robot is a autonomous device which performs automated tasks, either according to direct human control, partial control with human supervision, or completely autonomously. Robots are typically used to do tasks that are too dull, dirty, or dangerous for humans. Industrial robots used in manufacturing lines used to be the most common form of robots, but that has recently been replaced by consumer robots cleaning floors and mowing lawns. Other applications include toxic waste cleanup, underwater and space exploration, surgery, mining, search and rescue, and mine finding. Robots are also finding their way into entertainment and home health care.

Overview

The word robot comes from the Czech word robota meaning "drudgery", "servitude", or "forced labor". A robot can be defined as a man-made entity with an intelligent connection between perception and action. A robot may include a feedback-driven connection between sense and action, not under direct human control. The action may take the form of electro-magnetic motors or effectors that move an arm, open and close grippers, or propel the robot. Two basic ways of using effectors are to move the robot around or to move other objects around. This distinction divides robotics into two mostly separate categories: mobile robotics and manipulator robotics. The step by step control and feedback is provided by a computer program run on either an external or embedded computer or a microcontroller.

Alternately, robot has been used as the general term for a mechanical man, or an automaton resembling an animal, either real or imaginary. It has come to be applied to many machines which directly replace a human or animal in work or play. In this way, a robot can be seen as a form of biomimicry. Anthropomorphism is perhaps what makes us reluctant to refer to the highly complex modern washer-dryer as a robot. However, in modern understanding, the term implies a degree of independence that would exclude many automatic machine tools from being called robots. It is the search for ever more highly autonomous robots which is the major focus of robotics research and which drives much work in artificial intelligence.

History of Robots

Czech writer Karel ?apek introduced the word "Robot" in his play "R.U.R" (Rossum's Universal Robots) in 1921. "Robot" in Czech comes from the word "robota", meaning "labor". The earliest ideas that could be related to the robotics of today was in 350 B.C. by the Greek mathematician Archytas of Tarentum. He created a mechanical bird he called ?The Pigeon.? The bird was propelled by steam.The idea of artificial people dates at least as far back as the ancient legend of Cadmus, who sowed dragon teeth that turned into soldiers; and the myth of Pygmalion, whose statue of Galatea came to life. In classical mythology, the malformed god of metalwork (Vulcan or Hephaestus) created mechanical servants, ranging from intelligent, golden handmaidens to more utilitarian three-legged tables that could move about under their own power. Jewish legend tells of the Golem, an clay statue animated by Kabbalistic magic.

Many consider the first robot in the modern sense to be a teleoperated boat, similar to a modern ROV, devised by Nikola Tesla and demonstrated at an 1898 exhibition in Madison Square Garden. Based on his patent 613,809 for "teleautomation", Tesla hoped to develop the "wireless torpedo" into an automated weapon system for the US Navy. The first electronic autonomous robots were created by Grey Walter at Bristol University, England in 1948.

Contemporary uses of robots

Robots are being used today to do the tasks that are either too dirty, hazardous, hard, cyclic or tedious for humans. This usually takes the form of industrial robots used in industrialized lines. Other applications include toxic waste cleanup, space exploration, mining, search and rescue, and mine finding.

There is much hope in Japan, that home care for an aging (and long-lived) population can be better achieved through robotics. Robots have also been explored as a form of High-tech Art. Recent military conflicts have seen extensive use of robots in ground and air-based investigation, bomb-disposal, and most recently, remote controlled combat by human operators. The US military recently made to order an updated and revised former bomb-disposal robot as a combat robot, having it armed with a machine gun, but it is also capable of holding an RPG or rocket launcher. Unmanned Combat Air Vehicles have also been extensively used in recent American wars, with them being used to survey insurgents and even target them with smart bombs.

Current Developments

The trend towards these body types offer immense flexibility and proven adaptability to any environment. With more than four legs, these robots are statically stable which makes them easier to work with. Even though significant progress towards bipedal locomotion in robots has been made only recently, in just 4 years after the introduction of Asimo bipedal robots such as KHR-1 that cost only $1300 became available.

Another technical problem preventing wider adoption of robots is the complexity of handling physical objects in the inherently chaotic natural environment. Tactile sensors and better vision algorithms may solve this problem. Librarian robot from University Jaume I in Spain is a good example of current progress in this field.

Experimental winged robots and other examples destroying biomimicry are also in early development. So-called "nanomotors"and "smart wires" are expected to hugely simplify motive power, while in-flight stabilization seems likely to be improved by extremely small gyroscopes. A significant driver of this work is military research into spy technologies.

Future Prospects

Many scientists are sure that robots with human-level intelligence will be developed in the first half of the 21st century. Even before that the robots may become sufficiently useful to replace humans in many(if not most) jobs. While primarily this can lead to growing joblessness and social confusion, in the medium-term it's likely to bring increased material wealth to people in most nations. The cybernetics pioneer Norbert Wiener discussed some of these issues in his book The human use of human beings (1950).

In 1970, Japanese roboticist Masahiro Mori postulated a principle called the Uncanny Valley. He theorized that as a robot is made more humanlike in appearance and motion, people will respond with increasing empathy and positive emotion, until a point is reached at which the response suddenly becomes strongly repulsive. In his view, if the robot's appearance and motion are made indistinguishable from a human's, the touching response will once again become positive, approaching human-human empathy levels. The repulsive response to an "almost human" robot was described as the Uncanny Valley. Some roboticists have heavily criticized this theory.

There is likely to be some degree of union between humans and robots. Many humans are already cyborgs with some body parts and even parts of the nervous system replaced by artificial analogues. In many cases the same technology might be used both in robotics and in medicine.

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