Robots. When you hear this term, you would probably picture Arnold Schwarzenegger with his impeccable body as the Terminator or you may picture Rajinikanth as Chitti the Robot or those cute robots from the film Wall-E. Robots induce an interest in the minds of people, young and old alike, who would wish to have a robot in their lives.This article attempts to increase your fascination and provide you the technical know-hows of various kinds of robots and the breakthroughs that have happened in various fields.

A robot isn’t simply a human-like creature that tends to have feelings and emotions in addition to its extraordinary knowledge. It ranges from simple remote control cars to the robots that perform extensive mathematical calculations. Robot is the umbrella term for any machine that is programmed to perform tasks automatically by itself.

The word robot was coined by a Czech novelist Karel Capek in a 1920 play titled Rassum’s Universal Robots(RUR). Robot is the Czech word for a worker or a servant. When you Google for the definition of a robot, the top result tells you that a robot is “a machine resembling a human being and able to replicate certain human movements and functions automatically”. A robot is developed to simplify the works of the human race.

How should a Robot be?

Issac Asimov was a prolific science-fiction writer, who through his finest work I, Robot in 1939, established the Three Laws of Robotics that governs the working of a Robot.

  • A robot must not harm a human being or let harm happen to a human being through its inaction.
  • A robot must always obey human beings, unless it violates the first law.
  • A robot must protect itself from harm, unless it violates the two laws above.

There have been claims that Isaac Asimov's Laws of Robotics are wrong. Though they may be right because these rules were for his fictional work, they give the layman an essential understanding on the purpose of robots.

Robotics

Industrial Robots

Industrial Robots have changed the workplace scenario in Industries. Robots are used to do tasks that may be dangerous or difficult to do by humans. It can also be used to perform menial tasks to save the cost of labour.

  • Material handling, welding, painting, polishing and assembly in Production and Automobile industries.
  • Carrying loads like Cement and Bricks, Erecting heavy structures and assembling them in Construction industries.
  • Handling and Cleaning of Toxic wastes, Close inspection and monitoring of plants in Chemical and Nuclear Industries.

Robots are used to perform dangerous jobs. As mentioned above, Robots are extensively used in chemical and nuclear industries. They reduce the health hazards for human beings working in these industries and thus save their lives.There are robots that work in outer space, like Curiosity rover which was sent to Mars. It was designed by NASA to detect if Mars could sustain life. Kirobo robot is an astronaut robot that accompanied a Japanese astronaut to the International Space Station.

Underwater Robots Explore the Ocean like the robotic underwater glider Scarlet Knight crossed the Atlantic over the course of several months in 2009. This robot is an 8-foot autonomous underwater glider that traveled from New Jersey to Spain.There are robots that are used for dangerous deep cave excavations. They are efficient in their work and also save humans from the dangers of underground mining. In addition, they are also used as rescue bots. Hence Mining Robots are Replacing Humans and Saving their lives in these mines.

Medicine

Robots are now being widely used in the field of Medicine due to the recent advancements.

  • Bionics: It is the process of fitting robotic pieces as a replacement of damaged parts of the human body. Bionic replacements are limited to a few parts of the body such as upgrading the prosthetic limbs and fingers to bionic parts that even help them feel at the moment but have produced significant results in doing so. There is research going on to create bionic alternatives to various other organs and there is a high possibility that we could have cyborg like humans in the future.
  • Artificial Surgeons: Robots assist doctors in diagnosis and surgeries with the help of artificial intelligence(link to AI article). Robots, known for their precision, are used to perform surgeries to minimize the area that is cut. They also provide assistance to human surgeons on the exact places of various veins, nerves and organs.

Robotics

Bio Robots

These are a category of robots that are made similar to living things such as humans and animals with the most important being humanoid robots.Humanoid robots are the category of robots that are made to look, think and act similar to humans. ASIMO, developed by Honda in 2000, was one of the first, fully-fledged humanoid robots developed. It is still considered to be the most advanced humanoid robot ever developed. AR-600 is another humanoid robot that could walk, speak and act upon things. It was developed by Russia in 2012. Artificial Intelligence acts as the brain for these robots. Though we have developed various humanoid robots, there is room for improvement and include more emotions and possibly develop humane robots. There are also Animal robots that are made to look like animals and are indeed helpful in various different applications, some of these include a 'Robot locust' that are capable of cleaning oil spills.

Service robots

These are the category of robots with the ability to do tasks such as cleaning houses, mowing the lawn, delivering food, taxi drivers or self automating bots like UR3e collaborative table-top robot arm . They are not as intensive as the Industrial robots but they are useful in various applications. They can be a culmination of Industrial and Humanoid robots.

There are various cases of Robotos in the Classroom Why? They teach students. Humanoid robots are programmed to teach students and are helpful in certain cases. Kids with autism were found to be comfortable to communicate with robots rather than teachers, hence the people at International Robotics Inc. developed Roboto Millennia to assist these students with special needs.

Personal assistant robots are devised to suit your personal needs and help you with your day-to-day tasks. Whether you are a top level businessman or just a student, everyone could have their own personal robots barring the cost factor.There are a variety of them available in the market with varying price tags, some of the Smart Personal Assistant Robots are Anki Cozmo, iPATROL RILEY to name a few. Their functionalities are limited at the moment but there is a scope of improving the services these personal assistants offer in the future.

Enough of robots being too productive and literally robotic. They can act as a companion for you. Robots that play games with you like Chess and GO have already been developed. They use artificial intelligence and could input feedback from you to better suit your own personal needs. There are toy robots with which children could play with one such being Sony’s toy dog Aibo. These recreational robots act as a stress buster and drive away their boredom.

Soldiers risk their lives by guarding the country and hence military robots have been designed to aid soldiers in their battle. These robots are used to reduce various risks in the lives of soldiers such as detecting land mines, disposing mines, carrying injured soldiers and the like. Big Dog is a quadruped, dog-like robot developed by Boston Dynamics for the US Military. It is capable of carrying weights of upto 150kg and can walk and run on different terrains. It was developed for the US Military. Various remote controlled tanks and radio controlled aeroplanes also fall under this category. Learn more about Military Robots.

It is exciting to see how robotics have developed till date and there lies an exciting future ahead in this. What we can expect in the future?

Robotic plants that give natural flowers and fruits are a possibility. It is sure more bionic body parts will be developed to improve healthcare. Robots could act as security guards and also as neutral soldiers that do not harm people but save lives. There will be an introduction of robots to replace humans working in various areas.

Did I mention that each person will have their own personal robots with them being affordable? The future in Robotics is exciting.

Vignesh Hariharan

The author is a student of SSN College of Engineering pursuing his Bachelors in Computer Science and Engineering. He is a Product Management and Cloud Computing enthusiast. Passionate about Football and watching Manchester City play. Loves to read Agatha Christie and other thriller novels. He writes on Robotics, Artificial Intelligence and Space Science for Rancho Labs.