Robotics is the branch of mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, electronic engineering and computer science that deals with the design, construction, operation, and application of robots, as well as computer systems for their control, sensory feedback, and information processing.
These technologies deal with automated machines that can take the place of humans in dangerous environments or manufacturing processes, or resemble humans in appearance, behavior, and/or cognition. Many of today's robots are inspired by nature contributing to the field of bio-inspired robotics.
The concept of creating machines that can operate autonomously dates back to classical times, but research into the functionality and potential uses of robots did not grow substantially until the 20th century. Throughout history, it has been frequently assumed that robots will one day be able to mimic human behavior and manage tasks in a human-like fashion. Today, robotics is a rapidly growing field, as technological advances continue; researching, designing, and building new robots serve various practical purposes, whether domestically, commercially, or militarily. Many robots do jobs that are hazardous to people such as defusing bombs, mines and exploring shipwrecks.
Types of Robots
Nowadays, robots do a lot of different tasks in many fields and the number of jobs entrusted to robots is growing steadily. That's why one of the best ways how to divide robots into types is a division by their application. Following image shows few robot types.
There are following robot types:
- Industrial robots - Industrial robots are robots used in an industrial manufacturing environment. Usually these are articulated arms specifically developed for such applications as welding, material handling, painting and others. If we judge purely by application this type could also include some automated guided vehicles and other robots.
- Domestic or household robots - Robots used at home. This type of robots includes many quite different devices such as robotic vacuum cleaners, robotic pool cleaners, sweepers, gutter cleaners and other robots that can do different chores. Also, some surveillance and telepresence robots could be regarded as household robots if used in that environment.
- Medical robots - Robots used in medicine and medical institutions. First and foremost - surgery robots. Also, some automated guided vehicles and maybe lifting aides.
- Service robots - Robots that dont fall into other types by usage. These could be different data gathering robots, robots made to show off technologies, robots used for research, etc.
- Military robots - Robots used in military. This type of robots includes bomb disposal robots, different transportation robots, reconnaissance drones. Often robots initially created for military purposes can be used in law enforcement, search and rescue and other related fields.
- Entertainment robots - These are robots used for entertainment. This is a very broad category. It starts with toy robots such as robosapien or the running alarm clock and ends with real heavyweights such as articulated robot arms used as motion simulators.
Aspects of Robotics
There are many types of robots; they are used in many different environments and for many different uses, although being very diverse in application and form they all share three basic similarities when it comes to their construction:
- Robots all have some kind of mechanical construction, a frame, form or shape designed to achieve a particular task. For example, a robot designed to travel across heavy dirt or mud, might use caterpillar tracks. The mechanical aspect is mostly the creator's solution to completing the assigned task and dealing with the physics of the environment around it. Form follows function.
- Robots have electrical components which power and control the machinery. For example, the robot with caterpillar tracks would need some kind of power to move the tracker treads. That power comes in the form of electricity, which will have to travel through a wire and originate from a battery, a basic electrical circuit. Even gas powered machines that get their power mainly from gas still require an electric current to start the gas using process which is why most gas powered machines like cars, have batteries. The electrical aspect of robots is used for movement (through motors), sensing (where electrical signals are used to measure things like heat, sound, position, and energy status) and operation (robots need some level of electrical energy supplied to their motors and sensors in order to activate and perform basic operations)
- All robots contain some level of computer programming code. A program is how a robot decides when or how to do something. In the caterpillar track example, a robot that needs to move across a muddy road may have the correct mechanical construction, and receive the correct amount of power from its battery, but would not go anywhere without a program telling it to move. Programs are the core essence of a robot, it could have excellent mechanical and electrical construction, but if its program is poorly constructed its performance will be very poor or it may not perform at all.