20 April, 2012

A-Z Blogging Challenge: Robotics

The Mars Spirit rover. Public domain image. SOURCE.
Robotics is a branch of technology focused on the design and use of robots.

The word "robot" comes from the Czech word robota, or "forced labor", and the word "robotics" was coined by Science Fiction writer Isaac Asimov in 1941. There are five main physical elements to a robot: the structure, the power source, the sensors, the actuators (the things that make the robot move), and the controller (the "brain" of the robot). Most robots are mobile (using wheels or joints run by actuators, which can be powered by electric motors, hydraulic systems, or pneumatic systems), have an electrical circuit to which the actuators are connected, and are reprogrammable.

A common type of robot is the robotic arm, a stationary type of robot that has seven segments and six joints; they are prominent in manufacturing and require a good deal of accuracy. Robots that can move from place to place are more complicated, and require wheels, tracks, or legs, in addition to some way of properly controlling those methods of movement and compensating when out of balance. There are even more robot types when you consider remote and autonomous robots. Remote robots (or puppet robots) are controlled by people, whereas autonomous robots can control their movements on their own. They use a variety of sensors including ultrasound and infrared, and some of the fancier machines use stereo vision (which gives them depth perception).

By Richard Greenhill and Hugo Elias,
Current and future uses of robots include in regular homes (vacuum cleaning, lawn mowing), exploration of regions too dangerous for people to explore, research, the military (unmanned aerial vehicles, combat), farms, industry (car production, electronics, automated guided vehicles), healthcare (for the elderly or disabled), entertainment, and in outer space (space probes, rovers).

Notable Roboticist:

Yoky Matsuoka

Yoky Matsuoka is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, University of Washington, who obtained her Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Her research focuses on "neurobotics" (also spelled neurorobotics), or how electrical signals in the brain could translate into movement of a robotic prosthetic. It involves several fields, including computer science, biomechanics, biophysics, material science, and psychophysics. She is also the head of the non-profit YokyWorks Foundation, which creates specific devices for people with disabilities.

Video of Yoky Matsuoka explaining neurobotics:


The Unofficial Guide to LEGO MINDSTORMS Robots by Jonathan B. Knudsen


What do you think of when someone says "robot"? Computers, factories, Mars rovers, the famous (and anthropomorphized) Wall-E, C-3PO, R2-D2, Sonny?

-----The Golden Eagle


Carole Anne Carr said...

a. wish I could afford one in the home b. I'd probably find those with human features a bit too scary

Old Kitty said...

Well I never knew robot came from a Czech word!! Yay! Take care

Anonymous said...

From Wikipedia:
R.U.R. is a 1920 science fiction play in the Czech language by Karel Čapek. R.U.R. stands for Rossum's Universal Robots, an English phrase used as the subtitle in the Czech original. It premiered in 1921 and introduced the word "robot" to the English language and to science fiction as a whole.

I read the play in HS. Still have it somewhere.

The Golden Eagle said...

Carole: I like the robots that don't have human faces . . . some of the artificial eyes/etc. freak me out. :P

Old Kitty: I had no idea, either. Or that Isaac Asimov coined "robotics"!

Stuart: Wow.

After researching this post, I want to read it. :)

Jules said...

And I want a robot that tends to elderly folks. :) In fact I'm trying to convert my robot vacuum cleaner into one. :)
Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

....Petty Witter said...

Another fascinating post, its both amazing and kind of scary how human like some of these robots are becoming.

Anonymous said...

Anything with robots, I'm there! I love them to death. I wish The Transformer robots were real. I'd get me one in an instant!

Seriously, though. Sometimes I think of the future when robots will help humans with their daily chores. We are so not there yet. There is just so much progress that needs stimulating still!

Charles Gramlich said...

Read a lot of stories about Robots, some of my favorite SF in fact. Helen O'Loy. Brings me back.

Rusty Webb said...

I guess if I played word association with 'Robot' the first thing that comes to mind is...

Robby the Robot from Lost in Space.

Pat Hatt said...

You forgot Johny 5 is alive...haha...I think they are good but they are also going to make people waaaaay more lazy.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Robotics have come a long way.

Mr. Opinion said...

When I think of robotics it reminds me of a club I was apart of. Unfortunately I had to quit due to moving.

Sofia said...

This is really interesting! And Eagle, I agree with you, some of the artificial eyes etc. are really creepy. :P

anthony stemke said...

Another fabulous post G. Eagle.
I was selling Chevrolet automobiles in 1980 and a smaller pickup truck was being introduced, called S-10. It was being built in a new factory in Shreveport La. that was robotic. I remember wanting to visit that factory so badly. Robot spray painters, fitters etc it was fascinating.
At about that time people were debating about "intelligent" robots and comparing them to human intelligence. But that's another story.
Thanks for this interesting post.

Jay Noel said...

LOVE robots. My house is full of them. Of course, I had to post about steampunk robots!

My favorite robot that I have is named "Quadley." It's a four-legged robot.

L.G.Smith said...

I toured the Mini auto plant in Oxford, and the work was done almost exclusively by robots. It was fascinating, but at the same time I couldn't help feeling bad for all the workers who'd been replaced. It still left a sour taste in the tour guide,s mouth too. Hard to argue with their efficiency though.

Carol Kilgore said...

I think of all the things you mentioned when I think of robots. Plus I think of Roomba - my vacuum. I HEART her :)

Anonymous said...

If they told me I could replace an arm with a robotic one, I'd do it in an instant. The right one.

M Pax said...

We were on a similar wavelength with the rovers. :)

My husband adores robots. They can be really cool. One of my favorites was the robot dog on Dr. Who.

Krispy said...

Robots, such a classic mainstay of science fiction! When I hear the word, I definitely think of the fictional, anthropomorphized ones first - because they're more fun. But it's amazing that there are actually so many robots in our daily lives that we don't even think about because they aren't anthropomorphized. Great food for thought!

Speaking of robots, you might enjoy this video, a promo vid for the upcoming movie Prometheus: http://youtu.be/cWmbqH_z7jM

Oregon Gifts of Comfort and Joy said...

Wow. Your blog is excellent and I am your newest follower. Thanks so much for your visit.

Kathy M.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I think of Sonny and the ghost in the machine.

Kathy said...

Visiting from the A-Z challenge. Very cool blog!! I would love to have a robot around!


Nancy Thompson said...

And don't forget the medical field. I had surgery using robotic arms. Whenever I think of robots, I think of movies like Terminator and AI. Both are pretty scary futures.

Interesting post!

Donna K. Weaver said...

Wow, the implications of her research are huge!

Cherie Reich said...

Wall-E is such a cute robot. I didn't know robot came from that Czech word.

DeniseCovey_L_Aussie said...

Hey Golden, I've been hearing about robots doing our vacuuming for years. Just how much longer do I have to wait?


Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi GE .. so interesting to read about robots and learn things I didn't know. They've been incredible in helping us in various things that are labour intensive or dangerous .. undersea exploration as well as the ones you've mentioned.

Good to read about - cheers Hilary

S. L. Hennessy said...

This is definitely my favorite topic of yours so far! Robotics might be one of the most fascinating fields of study in my opinion. Though of course I write about sci-fi, so that makes sense :)

The Golden Eagle said...

Jules: I believe there are actually robots designed to help elderly and disabled people. Hopefully they'll become more widespread with time.

Petty Witter: Thank you!

It is. Though the humanoid robots they're designing these days are still pretty robot-like in their movement and speech.

Jack: Definitely. Can't wait to find out where society is robot-wise in, say, 100 years. :)

Charles: I've never heard of Helen O'Loy before. The stories about robots that immediately come to my mind are Isaac Asimov's.

Rusty: *Googles Robby the Robot*

. . . I've never heard of or seen that robot before.

Pat: I agree. I'm sure robots could do a lot of good, but they also cut down on the amount of work people do.

Alex: It certainly has. :)

Mr. Opinion: Sorry to hear you had to quit. A robotics club sounds really cool.

Sofia: Glad I'm not alone on that one. ;)

Anthony: Thank you so much!

It would be interesting to visit a factory with robots.

I guess "Intelligent" robots are what engineers have always been shooting for--machines that can move and "think" on their own, in addition to processing outside information.

You're welcome!

The Golden Eagle said...

Jay: Your house is full of robots? I'm jealous. ;)

Cool name!

L.G.: True. It's the same with computers, I suppose--they're pushing people out of the workforce, now that so many tasks can be automated. It would be nice if the workers could move on to other jobs, but the economy hasn't caught up yet.

Carol: I want a robot vacuum someday. Boo housework. :P

Joshua: They're working toward the the technology . . . but are still rather far off from creating artificial limbs that work efficiently, so far as I know. Unfortunately.

M: Great minds think alike. :)

Krispy: Absolutely. There are a lot of roboticized tasks that we take for granted.

I saw that on a blog just a couple days ago--that movie sounds really cool.

Kathy: Thank you so much!

You're welcome; I enjoyed stopping by your blog!

Susan: Sonny was an interesting character. Though I didn't like the way they split off from Isaac Asimov's original plot. :P

Kathy: Thanks!

It would come in handy, that's for sure.

Nancy: Wow. There's a good example of how robotics has affected technology!

Thank you. :)

Donna: Definitely. And I'm glad someone finally commented about the scientist!

Cherie: I was "Awww"-ing throughout that entire movie. LOL.

Me neither, until I researched this post.

Denise: I'm not sure . . . I do hope that everyday chores start being done by robots sometime soon. :)

Hilary: Great example! I posted about Autonomous Underwater Vehicles for Oceanography; they've certainly contribued to scientific knowledge.

S. L.: Of course. ;)

Andrew Leon said...

You know, our posts, when they overlap, go well together. You're not doing virtual reality for V, are you?

Rek said...

I think the best part is the practical applications like robotic arms, their use in space and underwater exploration, even miniature versions in surgeries.
Very interesting post.

Christine Rains said...

Great R post. I don't think of anything human-like when I think of robots. I think more of androids as human-like, but I know they're still robots!

The Golden Eagle said...

Andrew: I was just thinking the same as I visited your blog earlier. :)

Nope--I'm going with virology.

Rek: Thank you!

Christine: There's a huge range of robot forms. Not all of them are humanoid, so that makes sense. :)