Monday, March 10, 2008

ROBOTS - An easy to understand definition (many actually!)

So how does one define robot? Think you know? It's obvious, you say? you probably got thoughts something like:

  • A machine that can do the work of humans.
  • A humanoid machine that can think and act on its own.
  • A machine that's self-aware.
  • A mechanical man that serves drinks at parties.
  • I can't really define robot, I just know one when I see it!!!.

These definitions aren't exactly right, are they? They speak to some aspects of robots, but they're either too exclusive ("a machine that can do the work of humans" completely ignores recreational robots such as Sony's AIBO) or too sci-fi (machines are not yet self-aware machines, so that definition would mean that no robots yet exist!). It doesn't take long for you to realize that the last statement ("I know a robot when I see one") is where most civilians stand on the subject.

Oxford English Dictionary (okay, it's actually the Oxford American Dictionary, but we won't hold that against it) defines robot as

A machine capable of carrying out a complex series of actions automatically, especially one programmed by a computer.

The more blue-collar Merriam Webster Dictionary offers this definition:

  • 1. A machine that looks and acts like a human being.
  • 2. An efficient but insensitive person.
  • 3. A device that automatically performs esp. repetitive tasks.
  • 4. Something guided by automatic controls.
here's what the American Heritage Dictionary has to say on the subject:

An externally manlike mechanical device capable of performing human tasks or behaving in a human manner.

The Japanese Industrial Robot Association (JIRA) is also chiefly concerned with industrial robotics, but it still went so far as to create a whole robot classification system:

  • Manually operated manipulators— Machines slaved to a human operator (think Ripley strapped into the robotic exoskeleton loader in the film Aliens).
  • Sequential manipulators— Devices that perform a series of tasks in the same sequence every time they're activated (a phone switching system).
  • Programmable manipulators— An assembly-line robotic arm.
  • Numerically controlled robots (also known as a playback robot)— Robots that are instructed to perform tasks through the receipt of information on sequences and positions in the form of numerical data. Such robots are typically used for making precision machinery.
  • Sensate robots— Robots that incorporate sensor feedback into their circuitry—touch sensors, proximity sensors, vision systems, and so forth. (The robots we will construct in Projects 2 and 3 fit into this category.)
  • Adaptive robots— Robots that can change the way they function in response to their environment. Today's most sophisticated robots fit into this category.
  • Smart robots— Robots that are considered to possess artificial intelligence (AI). Whether or not any robots like this yet exist depends on how you choose to define AI (and you think robot is hard to define!).

  • Intelligent mechatronic systemsMechatronics ("mechanics" plus "electronics") is a fancy word coined by the Japanese in the 1960s to refer to the intersection of mechanical and electrical engineering and computer control systems. Here it refers to smart devices and embedded systems, such as the highway traffic control "robot" mentioned in the introduction.



© | Irecipe