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A robot can be defined as a man-made entity with an intelligent connection between perception and action. Usually, the intelligence is a computer or microcontroller running a program. However, much work has been done on robots with wired intelligence[?]. The action is usually motors or actuators[?] that move an arm or propel the robot. However, web bots are types of robots that exist only in code, and move throughout web pages gathering information.

The above definition is rather loose, as even an air conditioner will satisfy the criteria. Therefore roboticists extend the definition by adding a criterion that robots must be entities that perform more than one action. Therefore, air conditioners and similar single-function entities are reduced to a control problem.

Alternate definition: Robot is the general term for a mechanical man or automaton, but has come to be applied to many machines which directly replace a human or animal.

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The word robot comes from the Czech word robota (compare with the Russian rabotatj for "to work") meaning "drudgery", "servitude", or "forced labor",especially the so-called "labor rent" that survived in the Austro-Hungarian Empire until 1848.

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 (http://jerz.setonhill.edu/resources/RUR/).

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") would be a creature that is a combination of organic and mechanical parts.

In the general sense of automaton, the biggest robot in the world is said to be the Maeslantkering, a storm surge barrier in the Nieuwe Waterweg waterway near Hoek van Holland, Netherlands, which automatically closes when needed.

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 early 1700s, Jacques de Vaucanson[?] created 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 Metropolis, and the popular The Terminator and Blade Runner.

Serious speculation on this theme has continued to the present day, see for example "Why the future doesn't need us", by Bill Joy (Wired, April 2000, [1] (http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/8.04/joy_pr)), and clanking replicators. This helps fuel some debates on personhood[?] that question the criteria by which human rights are assigned in the law.

In his I, Robot series, Isaac Asimov created the Three Laws Of Robotics (later four) in a literary attempt to control the competition of robots with humans. 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." 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. Note: It is interesting that robotics was basically founded on these laws and today roboticists make no effort to implement them in their work.

Robots Today

Robots are being used today to do the tasks that are either too dirty, dangerous, 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 as 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 labour 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. As of 2002, several major Japanese companies, especially Honda and Sony, had begun selling commercial humanoid robots as "pets". Dog-shaped robots are, however, in much wider production.

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 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.

Also, the popularity of the TV shows Robot Wars[?] and Battlebots, of college level robot-sumo wrestling competitions, the success of "smart bombs" and "drone planes[?]" 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.

The worldwide Green Parties in 2002 were asking for public input on extending their existing policies against such competition, as part of more general biosafety and biosecurity concerns. It appears that, like Aldous Huxley's concerns about human cloning, questions Capek raised eighty years earlier in science fiction have become real debates.

Dean Kamen, Founder of FIRST (http://www.usfirst.org), and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) (http://www.asme.org/) created a competetive forum that inspires in young people, their schools and communities an appreciation of science and technology. The FIRST Robotics Competition (http://www.usfirst.org/robotics/) is a multinational competition that teams professionals and young people to solve an engineering design problem in an intense and competitive way. The program is a life-changing, career-molding experience-and a lot of fun. 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. The competitions are high-tech spectator sporting events, the result of lots of focused brainstorming, real-world teamwork, dedicated mentoring, project timelines, and deadlines.

Current Trends

Robots and the Future

Will they Replace Us?

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Big Names in Robotics:

Robot is also:

  • A type of camera
  • the name of the dog who discovered the cave paintings at Lascaux

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