To understand and appreciate the present robotic science and to realize the extent to which the this field of science can grow in near future we’ll first have to get familiar with the terms robotics and robots.

Robotics is an interdisciplinary branch of engineering consisting of mechanical, electronics, computer and information science engineering. The term Robotics was first coined by Isaac Asimov way back in the year 1940, along with the formulation of tree laws of robotics. Let’s take a look a look the three laws.

Law 1- A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

Law 2- A robot must obey orders given to it human beings except where such orders would conflict with the first law. 
Law 3- A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the first two laws of robotics.

On the other hand, a robot is a machine that can be programmed to do complex series of actions. There are basically three pillars of robotics, sense, think and act. So if a machine can sense, think and act only then it is called a robot. We humans sense everything around us with the help of sense organs, whereas robots sense the environment through sensors.

We humans think and process stuff with the help of brain, however the robots process everything by using microprocessors and microcontrollers. When the humans use legs and arms to perform various actions, however a robot uses motors and various other actuators (combinations of electric motors and gearboxes) to do actual mechanical movements. A machine is a robot only when it can sense, think and act at the same time otherwise it’s just a machine.

The world is going to be such where robots would be among us and the AI would be our ally for almost every task.  The border between man and machine is gradually disappearing and the future has already begun. In the 21st century robots have left the laboratories and factories and are no longer confined to simple, repetitive and unvaried tasks. These creatures have started permeating all arenas of our lives.

These machines can collaborate and communicate with humans effectively and and thus prove to be social robots. In near future they’ll participate with us in our daily lives. The robots continue to improve, moving evermore gracefully, exploring their environment. They’re on their way to replace to replace humans completely from mundane or dangerous tasks.

It’s basically the intelligence and sensing that is required for a machine to be called a robot. It wasn’t until the 1960s that a company created a structure following these guidelines. Credits are being given to SRI International in Silicon Valley developed Shakey, the first mobile and responsive robot in true sense. This tower on wheels was fairly slow and twitchy. 

But being equipped with a camera and bump sensors, Shakey could easily navigate an intricate environment. It wasn’t a particularly confident-looking machine, but it was surely the beginning of the robotic revolution. Around the time Shakey was trembling about, robot arms were beginning to transform manufacturing. The first among them was Unimate, which welded auto bodies. Today, its successors rule car factories, performing tedious, dangerous tasks with far more precision and speed than any human could muster.

Then, in the mid-1980s Honda started a humanoid robotics program as a result of which P3 was developed, which could walk pretty well and also wave and shake hands. New technologies are arising to let robots perceive the world in ways that are far beyond humans’ capabilities. For instance, a robot named Kengoro, moves with 116 actuators that tug on cables, allowing the machine to do unsettlingly human maneuvers like pushups.

It’s a far more natural-looking form of movement than what traditional electric motors provide. Robotics seems to be reaching a point where processing power and artificial intelligence are combining to highly ensmarten the machines. And for the machines, just as in humans, the senses and intelligence are inextricable. A company called SynTouch, has developed robotic fingertips that is able to detect a range of sensations, from temperature to coarseness.

Another robot fingertip from Columbia University replicates touch with light. It’s embedded with 32 photodiodes and 30 LEDs, overlaid with a skin of silicone. Robots are highly likely to also dominate the world of hospitals. When the coronavirus crisis took hold in early 2020, roboticists saw an opportunity and proposed that robots will prove to be perfect coworkers in a pandemic.

They argued that the cri must be used for the development of medical robots, which never get sick and can do the dull, dirty, and dangerous work that puts human medical workers in harm’s way. Robot helpers could take patients’ temperatures and deliver drugs. This would free up human doctors and nurses to invest their time and energy for problem-solving and being empathetic with patients, skills that robots may never be able to replicate.

On the other hand, a lot of people are thinking about the singularity, when the machines grow advanced enough to make humanity obsolete. That will result in a massive societal realignment and species-wide existential crisis. What if robots completely replace us in the market. How does income inequality look anything other than exponentially more dire as industries replace people with machines?

The machines promise to change virtually every aspect of human life, from health care to transportation to work. One thing is abundantly clear that the machines have arrived. Now we have to figure out how to handle the responsibility of having invented a whole new species.

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image source: thejapantimes

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