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What are Robots?

Robots working on an automobile assembly line.
Military and police robots can be used to defuse bombs or carry automated weapon systems.
A toy robot.
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  • Written By: Mary Elizabeth
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 20 April 2014
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The word robot is usually used to refer to a mechanical agent that performs one or more tasks in which it mimics a human or animal agent either through programming or commands. Another word used synonymously is automaton. Virtual robots exist, but are most often called by the abbreviated name bots.

This term comes from the Czech word robota, which means drudgery or servitude. It was coined by Karel Capek, a Czech playwright, in his play R.U.R., which stands for "Rossum’s Universal Robots." It was published in 1921, and entered English in 1923. The field of study is referred to as robotics, and people who specialize in it are called roboticists.

Robots can be classified in a number of ways. Creators may use the means of locomotion as their categories, differentiating their creations by whether they are static, on the one hand, or whether they have treads, a propeller, fins, legs, wheels, rotors, or other means of propulsion.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), however, classifies robots in several different ways. First, it classifies them by whether they work on Earth or in space. Second, it classifies them by the industry they work in. Third, it classifies them by the type of jobs they do.

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These machines are employed in industries such as manufacturing, medicine, the military, and transportation. They are used widely in assembly operations, in which they complete a range of tasks, including the following:

  • arc welding
  • diecasting
  • fettling machines
  • gas welding
  • manipulating machine tools
  • placement of items into a structure that’s being built
  • sealant application
  • spot welding
  • spray painting

Robots are also used for parts inspections, making glass, cleaning, monitoring radiation, sorting, loading and unloading, fastening, forging, and sand blasting. Because they are not human, they can be used in hazardous situations such as firefighting, military warfare, and bomb detection. Surgical robots are under development and robotic hands, for example, are already used in some surgical operations, allowing the human surgeon more control in laparoscopic procedures, those done through a very small incision.

Droid is the name for a type of intelligent robot. The droid comes from a shortening of the word android, which means "an automaton that has features of a human being." Examples of droids include C-3PO and R2-D2 of Star Wars fame. George Lucas, the creator of Star Wars, has trademarked the term.

In the real world, a number of companies are working on android robots that closely resemble humans and are able to interact with real people. Much of the current work is being done in Japan and South Korea. Some South Korean companies hope to make them a household item in the future.

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Discuss this Article

LisaLou
Post 6

With all the advancements in modern technology, there have been a lot of changes in the tasks robots are able to perform. I am especially fascinated with the robot hands that help the surgeon perform certain surgeries. I have had laprascopic surgery, and know how important it is for the surgeon to have steady hands when working with such a small incision area.

myharley
Post 5

A few years ago I bought a robot vacuum that is supposed to roll around the floor and vacuum up the dirt. It is kind of fascinating to watch, but I find it is just easier to do it myself. I don't have to worry about batteries or plugging something in if I just use a broom and dustpan.

I always thought it would be great to have some kind of robot do those mundane household chores that nobody likes to do. I would still be quite surprised to see these being used as common household items in my lifetime.

If these robots do become widely used, I wonder how much it would cost to have a robot like this in your home?

honeybees
Post 4

I have a nephew who is very interested in creating and developing robots. Ever since he was little, all he asked for were robot kits to work on. I think you have to be born with a mind that understands how to program all that stuff. It was certainly something that was never really taught to him. The first time he was exposed to it, he was extremely fascinated with it, and it has just grown from there.

sunshined
Post 3

I am somewhat fascinated with the work being done on android robots that can interact with humans. I don't follow the research being done in this particular field, but I remember when I was a kid, there was talk that robots would be the way of the future, and common use in most households.

That was several years ago, and even though they must have made a lot of advancements since then, I don't personally know anyone who has a robot in their home.

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