A Guide to Robotics Technology

— by , Educational Outreach Writer

Lisa Richards, Educational Outreach Writer

Robotics involves the design and creation of robotic systems. A robotic system has the capability of performing tasks and duties for humans to simplify life and streamline work processes. The people who design robotic systems are robotics engineers with specialized training in electrical and mechanical engineering.

History of Robotics

The word "robot" was created in 1920 in connection with a play that featured human-like machines that took over the society they had been serving. In 1932, the first simple robot was born in Japan. Isaac Asimov wrote a short story in 1941 that included "Three Laws of Robotics." The laws stipulate that a robot cannot harm a human or allow a human to come to harm, a robot has to obey all humans, and a robot has to protect its existence. The first robotic arm came to be in 1954, and General Motors began using this technology for dangerous assembly line work in 1962. The 1969 moon landing utilized robotic technology also, to assist the astronauts with their mission.

Components

Although robots can vary significantly in design and materials, many robots share similar components. A robot needs a sensor to gather information about the immediate environment. Sensors such as a camera or microphone can help guide robot behavior based on visual or audio information. A sensor can also be a bumper that registers a collision between the robot and an object. A thermometer or barometer can also detect temperature or pressure changes to guide a robot. Effectors are the components that perform the tasks or work of the robot. Examples of effectors include grippers, shovels, hammers, motors, and speakers. Every robot also needs a control center to control its actions and behavior. Some robot control centers are pre-programmed to perform the same task repeatedly without changing. Other robot control centers are designed to receive information from sensors and then choose the robot's action based on this information.

Robotic Mapping

Robotic mapping involves a robot either creating a map or using it to navigate a space. The robot must use sensors to gain information necessary for navigating a map or creating it from environmental information. If a robot works outdoors, it's possible to use GPS satellites as tools for navigation. Indoor robots can use wireless signals as a substitute for GPS. Robotic mapping typically involves more than one step as the robotic sensors receive information from the environment and process the information to produce a resulting map. As sensors receive new and updated information about the environment, the robot updates the map to make it more accurate.

Additional Information

Not only can robotics assist humans with routine tasks such as assembly or repair, but robots can also enable exploration in environments that humans cannot easily access, such as underwater or at high elevations. Robotic surgery involves high-precision procedures through very small incisions, performing intricate work that humans are incapable of performing. Field robotics involves the use of robots in outdoor and natural settings involving unconstrained environments. Robotics also has technology that can assist the military. For example, a robot that can travel into specific environments and territories to bring back visual data can assist the military without putting troops in danger. Some military robots even have ammunition and firing capabilities suitable for use against enemy targets. A military robot with sound detection and lasers can detect and target snipers that might try to eliminate the robot.

Robotics Resources

Learn more about robotic technology by visiting the following links for information about robotic history, careers in robotic engineering, and the field of robotics:

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