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  Wikipedia: Robot

Wikipedia: Robot
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Concept: What is a Robot?

In practical usage, a robot is a mechanical device which performs automated tasks, either according to direct human supervision, a pre-defined program or, a set of general guidelines, using artificial intelligence techniques. These tasks either replace or enhance human work, such as in manufacturing, construction or manipulation of heavy or hazardous materials.

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 actuators that move an arm, open and close grips, or propel the robot. The step by step control and feedback is provided by a computer program run on either an external or embedded computer or a microcontroller. By this definition, a robot may include nearly all automated devices.

Alternately, robot has been used as the general term for a mechanical man, or an automaton resembling an animal, either real or imagined. 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 autonomy 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: Where Did the Idea Originate?

The word robot comes from the Czech (and West Slavic) word robota meaning "labor." The word robot was first used by Karel Capek in his play R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots) (written in 1920; first performed 1921; performed in New York 1922; English edition published 1923). 1. While Karel is frequently acknowledged as the originator of the word, he wrote a short letter in reference to the Oxford English Dictionary etymology in which he named his brother, painter and writer Josef Capek as its true inventor. 2.

Although Capek's robots were organic artificial humans, the word robot is nearly always used to refer to mechanical humans. 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 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 deformed 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. Hebrew legend tells of the golem, an clay statue animated by Kabbalistic magic. In the far North of Canada and in Western Greenland Inuit legends tell of the Tupilaq (or Tupilak), which can be created by a sorcerer to hunt and kill an enemy. Using a Tupilaq for this can be a two edged sword since a would-be victim skilled enough in sorcery can stop an attacking Tupilaq and reprogram it to seek and destroy its creator.

The first recorded design of a humanoid robot was made by Leonardo da Vinci around the 1495. Da Vinci's notebooks, rediscovered in the 1950s, contained detailed drawings for a mechanical knight that was apparently able to sit up, wave its arms, and move its head and jaw. The design was likely based on his anatomical research recorded in the Vitruvian Man. It is not known whether or not he attempted to build the robot (see: Leonardo's robot).

The first known functioning robot was created in the 1738 by Jacques de Vaucanson, who made an android that played the flute, as well as a mechanical duck that reportedly ate and defecated. E.T.A. Hoffmann's 1817 short story "The Sandman" features a doll-like mechanical woman, and Edward S. Ellis' 1865 "Steam Man of the Prairies" expresses the American fascination with industrialization. A wave of stories about humanoid automatons culminated with the "Electric Man" by Luis Senarens in 1885.

Once technology advanced to the point where people foresaw mechanical creatures as more than toys, literary responses to the concept of robots reflected fears that humans would be replaced by their own creations. Frankenstein (1818), sometimes called the first science fiction novel, has become synonymous with this theme. When Capek's play RUR introduced the concept of an assembly line run by robots who try to build still more robots, the theme took on economic and philosophical overtones, further disseminated by the classic movie Metropolis (1927), and the popular Star Wars (1976), Blade Runner (1982) and The Terminator (1984) .

Present Day: How are Robots Used?

Robots are being used today to do the tasks that are either too dirty, dangerous, difficult, repetitive or dull for humans. This usually takes the form of industrial robots used in manufacturing lines. Other applications include toxic waste cleanup, space exploration, mining, search and rescue, and mine finding. Manufacturing remains the primary market where robots are utilized. In particular, articulated robots, similar in motion capability to the human arm, are the most widely used. Applications include welding, painting and machine loading. The automotive industry has taken full advantage of this new technology where robots have been programmed to replace human labor in many simple repetitive tasks. There is much hope, especially in Japan, that home care for an aging (and long-lived) population can be better achieved through robotics.

Future Developments: How do Robots Move and Operate?

When roboticists first attempted to mimic human and animal gaits, they discovered that it was incredibly difficult; requiring more computational power than what was available at the time. So, emphasis was shifted to other areas of research. Simple wheeled robots were used to conduct experiments in behavior, navigation, and path planning. When engineers were ready to attempt walking robots again, they started small with hexapods and other multi-legged platforms. These robots mimicked insects and arthropods in both form and function. 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. Only recently has progress been made towards bipedal locomotion in robots.

Recently, tremendous progress has been made in medical robotics, with two companies in particular, Computer Motion and Intuitive Surgical, receiving regulatory approval in North America, Europe and Asia for their robots to be used in minimal invasive surgical procedures. Laboratory automation is also a growing area. Here, benchtop robots are used to transport biological or chemical samples between instruments such as incubators, liquid handlers and readers. Other places where robots are likely to replace human labour are in deep-sea exploration and space exploration. For these tasks, arthropod body types are generally preferred. Mark W. Tilden formerly of Los Alamos National Laboratories specializes in cheap robots with bent but unjointed legs, while others seek to replicate the full jointed motion of crabs' legs.

Experimental winged robots and other examples exploiting biomimicry are also in early development. So-called "nanomotors" and "smart wires" are expected to drastically 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.

Contests: Where Do Robots Compete?

Dean Kamen, Founder of FIRST, and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) created a competitive forum that inspires in young people, their schools and communities an appreciation of science and technology.

Their Robotics Competition is a multinational competition that teams professionals and young people to solve an engineering design problem in an intense and competitive way. In 2003 the competition will reach more than 20,000 students on over 800 teams in 24 competitions. Teams come from Canada, Brazil, the U.K., and almost every U.S. state. Unlike the Robot sumo wrestling competitions that take place regularly in some venues, or the Battlebots competitions on TV, these competitions include the creation of the robot.

The popularity of the TV shows Robot Wars and Battlebots, of college level robot-sumo wrestling competitions, the success of "smart bombs" and UCAVs in armed conflicts, grass-eating "gastrobots" in Florida, and the creation of a slug-eating robot in England, suggest that the fear of an artificial life form doing harm, or competing with natural wild life, is not an illusion.

Dangers: Can Robots Hurt People?

The concern that robots might displace or compete with humans is common. In his I, Robot series, Isaac Asimov created the Three Laws of Robotics in a literary attempt to control the competition of robots with humans:

  1. A robot may not harm a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey the orders given to it by the human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence, as long as such protection does not conflict the First or Second Law.

Unfortunately the issue is not so simple to resolve. Asimov himself based the plots of quite a few robots novels on probing into the applicability and sufficiency of the Three Laws. The laws or rules that could or must apply to robots or other "autonomous capital" in cooperation or competition with humans have spurred investigation of macro-economics of this competition, notably by Alessandro Acquisti building on much older work by John von Neumann.

Asimov said in the introduction to his novel The Caves of Steel that in the same series he also made "the very first use of the word robotics in the history of the world, as far as I know."

Even without overt malicious programming, robots and humans simply do not have the same body tolerances or awarenesses, leading to accidents: In Jackson, Michigan on July 21, 1984, a factory robot crushed a worker against a safety bar in apparently the first robot-related death in the United States.

Additional Robot Topics

Famous Roboticists

External links

Other Usages of Robot


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 
Modified by Geona