Robotics is the study and development of robots combining technology, science, and engineering to create a machine that works autonomously. Though the concept has been around for a long time, people still don’t see any robots working for them. The idea of having a mechanical servant that works without external commands was proposed by ancient engineers thousands of years ago. But it all began in the early 1950s when the first commercial robot “unimate” was built and sold to General Motors. This robot was used to lift hot pieces of metal.
Since then the robotics industry has developed enormously but there is still no particular definition of a robot because it is sometimes difficult to differentiate between a robot and a machine. A robot is an intelligent autonomous machine that has some sense of awareness. They are built as replacements to humans in doing certain jobs that consume a lot of manpower.
In today’s world robots are not just restricted to lifting heavy objects, they are used in different areas of work to do various jobs. Generally, people have a notion that a robot is supposed to look like a human but it is not at all true. Well, there are robots that look like humans which are called humanoids but the vast majority of today’s robots are not anyway near a humanoid.
There are different types of robots apart from humanoids like autonomous robots and teleoperated robots. Autonomous robots function in an open environment without any external commands. Vacuum cleaners like Roomba, aerial inventory robots like PINC AIR, TagSurveyor are some simple examples of autonomous robots. A teleoperated robot does specific tasks on receiving external commands. These robots are designed to work in extreme climates to perform tasks that are difficult for humans.
The robotics industry is rapidly developing with each passing day as the factors that contribute to its development are also advancing. Artificial intelligence which was only confined to science fiction is becoming more of a real thing. Today there are robots that can walk, talk, jump and even cook. Humanoid robots like Sophia are the most advanced forms of robots that built can be in current times. Today there are various sectors that reap the benefits of installing robots.
Let’s look at some of the areas that are supported by robotics.
The earliest real-world application of robotics was for manufacturing. The robots that are used by manufacturing industries are called industrial robots. These are automated robots that are programmed to move on more than one axis. Industrial robots are assigned to do works like painting, assembly, welding, product inspection, packaging, labeling, and more. Having an industrial robot affects the manufacturing sector in an extreme way. These robots increase productivity by working faster than humans. It is also cheaper to have robots to work in the place of humans as they do not make any errors while working. The cost of maintaining a robot is far less than paying people to do the same job. Unlike humans, robots do not get tired so they can work for hours on end without any support.
Exoskeletons are mechanical skeletal structures that are built with the intention of mimicking the movements of a human body. These are special kinds of robots that are designed for the service of humans. These can be useful in many important fields like military and health care. Exoskeletons are used to train the limbs of people suffering from paraplegia. The patient is made to wear an exoskeleton which would then train their limbs to replicate normal bodily movements performed by humans. Exoskeletons can be used to help soldiers on the battlefield by providing them with additional strength and endurance in harsh conditions. Apart from these jobs, exoskeletons can be used by farmers and laborers who do stressful works that are repetitive in manner.
Robots of different sizes and shapes are used in the agriculture sector. These robots are called agricultural robots. There are different types of agricultural robots each designed to perform a specific task. Most of the robots used by the agriculture industry are used for picking and harvesting. A harvesting robot has to carefully pick the ripe fruits or vegetables from the field without damaging the plants. Other than harvesting and picking there are several other autonomous robots that can do works like mowing, weeding, pruning, seeding, and spraying pesticides.
Automated Transportation and Surveillance.
Cars and other automated vehicles are being built to transport humans and deliver products. These automated vehicles can drive across all terrains without any human involvement or guidance. It would be more appropriate to call them robots on wheels rather than calling them vehicles. Similarly, these robots can also be used for surveillance purposes. A surveillance robot will travel all around a restricted perimeter and immediately notifies its owner if it observes anything unusual. Big automobile companies like AUDI and Mercedes have already announced that they are designing driverless cars. An online food delivery company called DOORDASH in san Fransisco is already using robots to deliver its food. With new advancements in artificial intelligence and machine learning, the day is not far when humans will be traveling in cars without any drivers.
- Robots can easily do tasks that are stressful for humans.
- They increase the productivity of an organization.
- Robots are cheaper to maintain than maintaining working labor that large in number.
- They are designed and programmed to do specific tasks to eliminate the risk of making errors that are common for humans.
- Robots in the current times are more intelligent, flexible and user-friendly.
Advancements in robotics seem promising for some and worrisome for others. Some people feel that building advanced robots will help improve the human standard of living while others believe that it will be a disaster. Some scientists believe that robots with artificial intelligence can be a danger to the entire human race. An increase in the usage of robots in companies will result in millions of people losing their jobs. Only time will tell how incorporating robotics in our daily life shapes our future.