As we discuss robotics, doesn’t this make us feel like the future is here already.
Industries have never been the same since robots have taken over the jobs that humans used to do. Although, these aren’t super intelligent androids or anything – but soon, robots will perform some tasks better than us, but others are best left to people and not machines.
What is Robotics?
Robotics is an interdisciplinary field that integrates science, engineering and technology. It involves design, construction, operation and use of machines called robots to perform tasks done traditionally by human beings or substitute for human actions.
The goal of robotics is to design machines that can help and assist humans.
It integrates fields of mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, information engineering, mechatronics, electronics, bioengineering, computer engineering, control engineering, software engineering, mathematics, among others.
Several application of robotics include:
- Working alongside humans in manufacturing plants (known as co-bots)
- Surgical assistants
- Autonomous household robots that carry out tasks like vacuuming and mowing the grass
- Helping during search-and-rescue missions after natural disasters
- Detecting landmine in war zones
- Assist fighting forest fires
What are Robots?
A robot is a machine—especially one programmable by a computer—capable of executing a complex series of tasks with speed and precision. It can be guided by an external control device, or the control may be embedded within. Most robots are task-performing machines, designed with an emphasis on stark functionality, rather than expressive aesthetics. These tasks can be either autonomous, with little or independent of human intervention.
Robots are widely used in industries such as automobile manufacturers to perform simple repetitive tasks and in industries where work must be performed in environments hazardous to humans.
Here are some areas where robots perform better than humans:
- Automate manual or repetitive activities.
- Work in hazardous and unpredictable environments.
- Fill our pharmaceutical prescriptions, prep IVs and assist during surgeries.
- Assist in finding items and carrying them throughout warehouses.
- Help with search, rescue and even assist with food packaging and preparation during emergencies.
- Last-mile package and food order delivery.
Types of Robots
With industries addressing some of the challenges they face in today’s market, such as increased productivity and the scarcity of skilled workers. Different types of robots improve operations.
- Pre-Programed Robots:
Pre-programmed robots operate in a simple, controlled environment and they do not require AI control systems to operate successfully. The pre-programmed robots are the ones that have to be told ahead of time what to do and they then execute that program.
Known for its accuracy, the most familiar pre-programmed robots are the ones used to build cars in most automobile plants around the world. These are pre-programmed robotic arms large enough to handle entire automobiles as if they were toy cars. These robots can drive cars and even fix cars.
Another common use of pre-programmed robots is presenting medical students with various scenarios that they must diagnose and treat. These robots are programmed with possible scenarios and its responses to the students’ treatment is also pre-programmed. For example, you must try one of the treatments that the robot is programmed to respond to and not an experimental treatment because the robot would not know how to respond. As they cannot change their behavior while they are working and no human is guiding their actions.
- Humanoid Robots:
Humanoid robots are the robots most of us think of when we think of robots. These robots look like or mimic human behaviour. Humanoid robots usually perform human-like activities such as running and carrying objects and are sometimes built to look like and resemble human body, facial features and expressions.
The most prominent examples of humanoid robots are Hanson Robotics’ Sophia, Honda’s Asimo, which has a mechanical appearance and also androids like the Geminoid series, which are designed to look like people.
- Autonomous Robots:
Autonomous robotics is usually considered to be a subfield of AI, robotics and information engineering. These robots operate independently, intelligently and adapt to their environment without direct human supervision.
They have “autonomy” because it is ultimately the machine’s responsibility to detect changes in the environment and to adapt to it.
Autonomous robots are usually designed to carry out tasks in an open environment that might be changing. It is not necessary for humans to constantly monitor and manipulate the environment to accommodate limitations in the autonomous robot’s ability to cope. They are quite unique because they use sensors to perceive the world around them and then employ decision-making structures, commonly a computer to take the next step.
A fully autonomous robot can –
- Learn about its surrounding and environment
- Work without human intervention for an extended period of time
- Move either all or part of itself throughout its operational environment without human aid
- Avoid situations that are harmful to people, property, or itself unless it’s a part of the autonomous robot’s design specifications
- May also learn or gain new knowledge like adjusting for new methods of accomplishing its tasks or adapting to changing surroundings.
Autonomous robots, like other machines, require regular maintenance. An example of an autonomous robot would be the Roomba vacuum cleaner, which uses sensors to roam freely throughout a home.
- Teleoperated Robots:
Teleoperated robots are semi autonomous bots that are controlled remotely by a human being. It is a combination of two major subfields, teleoperation and telepresence. These robots usually work in extreme geographical conditions, weather, circumstances, etc. Teleoperated robots might have some sort of artificial intelligence, but they normally take their command from a human operator and execute exactly as instructed. As of now, these robots are mostly used in medical surgeries and military operations. With the advanced Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) technologies, teleoperated robots are entering a new spectrum – VR and AR controlled teleoperated robots. Special emphasis will be given to the use of such robots in the medical field as it is now possible for your doctor to be tele present in your hometown, even if he/she is on a trip.
Examples of teleoperated robots are underwater robots that helped fix the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico and human-controlled submarines used to fix underwater pipe leaks during the BP oil spill or drones used to detect landmines on a battlefield.
Robots have a wide variety of use cases that make them the ideal technology for the future. Sooner than we can imagine, we will see robots in hospitals, in hotels and even on roads.