is the science and technology of robots, their design, manufacture, and application.
Robotics requires a working knowledge of electronics, mechanics and software,
and is usually accompanied by a large working knowledge of many subjects.
A person working in the field is a roboticist.
the appearance and capabilities of robots vary vastly, all robots share the features
of a mechanical, movable structure under some form of autonomous control. The
structure of a robot is usually mostly mechanical and can be called a kinematic
chain (its functionality being similar to the skeleton of the human body). The
chain is formed of links (its bones), actuators (its muscles) and joints which
can allow one or more degrees of freedom. Most contemporary robots use open serial
chains in which each link connects the one before to the one after it. These robots
are called serial robots and often resemble the human arm. Some robots, such as
the Stewart platform, use closed parallel kinematic chains. Other structures,
such as those that mimic the mechanical structure of humans, various animals and
insects, are comparatively rare. However, the development and use of such structures
in robots is an active area of research (e.g. biomechanics). Robots used as manipulators
have an end effector mounted on the last link. This end effector can be anything
from a welding device to a mechanical hand used to manipulate the environment.
to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word robotics was first used
in print by Isaac Asimov, in his science fiction short story "Liar!", published
in May 1941 in Astounding Science Fiction. Robotics is based on the word
"robot" coined by science fiction author and Nobel Prize winner Karel Čapek in
his 1920 theater play R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots, in Czech Rossumovi univerzální
roboti). The word robot comes from the word robota meaning "self labor", and,
figuratively, "drudgery" or "hard work" in Czech and Slovak. The origin of the
word is the Old Church Slavonic rabota "servitude" ("work" in contemporary Russian).
Asimov was unaware that he was coining the term for a new field -- as the design
of electrical devices is called electronics, so the design of robots could be
appropriately called robotics.
Before the coining of the term, however, there was interest in ideas similar to
robotics (namely automata and androids) dating as far back as the 8th or 7th century
BC. In the Iliad, the god Hephaestus made talking handmaidens out of gold.
Archytas of Tarentum is credited with creating a mechanical Pigeon in 400 BC.
Robots are used in industrial, military, exploration, home making, and academic
and research applications.
robot leg, powered by Air Muscles.
actuators are the 'muscles' of a robot; the parts which convert stored energy
into movement. By far the most popular actuators are electric motors, but there
are many others, some of which are powered by electricity, while others use chemicals,
or compressed air.
By far the vast majority of robots use electric motors, of which there are several
kinds. DC motors, which are familiar to many people, spin rapidly when an electric
current is passed through them. They will spin backwards if the current is made
to flow in the other direction.
motors: As the name suggests, stepper motors do not spin freely like DC motors,
they rotate in steps of a few degrees at a time, under the command of a controller.
This makes them easier to control, as the controller knows exactly how far they
have rotated, without having to use a sensor. Therefore they are used on many
robots and CNC machining centres.
motors: A recent alternative to DC motors are piezo motors, also known as
ultrasonic motors. These work on a fundamentally different principle, whereby
tiny piezoceramic legs, vibrating many thousands of times per second, walk the
motor round in a circle or a straight line.
The advantages of these motors are incredible nanometre resolution, speed and
available force for their size.
These motors are already available commercially, and being used on some robots.
muscles: The air muscle is a simple yet powerful device for providing a pulling
force. When inflated with compressed air, it contracts by up to 40% of its original
length. The key to its behavior is the braiding visible around the outside, which
forces the muscle to be either long and thin, or short and fat. Since it behaves
in a very similar way to a biological muscle, it can be used to construct robots
with a similar muscle/skeleton system to an animal.
For example, the Shadow robot hand uses 40 air muscles to power its 24 joints.
polymers: Electroactive polymers are a class of plastics which change shape
in response to electrical stimulation.
They can be designed so that they bend, stretch or contract, but so far there
are no EAPs suitable for commercial robots, as they tend to have low efficiency
or are not robust. Indeed, all
of the entrants in a recent competition to build EAP powered arm wrestling robots,
were beaten by a 17 year old girl.
However, they are expected to improve in the future, where they may be useful
for microrobotic applications.
- Elastic nanotubes:
These are a promising, early-stage experimental technology. The absence of defects
enables these filaments to deform elastically by several percent, with energy
storage levels of perhaps 10J per cu cm for metal nanotubes. Human biceps could
be replaced with an 8mm diameter wire of this material. Such compact "muscle"
might allow future robots to outrun and outjump humans. 
which must work in the real world require some way to manipulate objects; pick
up, modify, destroy or otherwise have an effect. Thus the 'hands' of a robot are
often referred to as end effectors,
while the arm is referred to as a manipulator.
Most robot arms have replacable effectors, each allowing them to perform some
small range of tasks. Some have a fixed manipulator which cannot be replaced,
while a few have one very general purpose manipulator, for example a humanoid
A common effector is the gripper. In its simplest manifestation it consists of
just two fingers which can open and close to pick up and let go of a range of
small objects. See End effectors .
Grippers: Pick and place robots for electronic components and for large objects
like car windscreens, will often use very simple vacuum grippers. These are very
simple astrictive devices, but can hold very large loads provided the prehension
surface is smooth enough to ensure suction.
purpose effectors: Some advanced robots are beginning to use fully humanoid
hands, like the Shadow Hand and the Schunk hand.
These highly dexterous manipulators, with as many as 20 degrees of freedom and
hundreds of tactile sensors
can be difficult to control. The computer must consider a great deal of information,
and decide on the best way to manipulate an object from many possibilities.
the definitive guide to all forms of robot endeffectors, their design and usage
consult the book "Robot Grippers" .
in the Robot museum in Nagoya.
simplicity, most mobile robots have four wheels. However, some researchers have
tried to create more complex wheeled robots, with only one or two wheels.
- Two-wheeled balancing:
While the Segway is not commonly thought of as a robot, it can be thought of as
a component of a robot. Several real robots do use a similar dynamic balancing
algorithm, and NASA's Robonaut has been mounted on a Segway.
Carnegie Mellon University researchers have developed a new type of mobile robot
that balances on a ball instead of legs or wheels. "Ballbot" is a self-contained,
battery-operated, omnidirectional robot that balances dynamically on a single
urethane-coated metal sphere. It weighs 95 pounds and is the approximate height
and width of a person. Because of its long, thin shape and ability to maneuver
in tight spaces, it has the potential to function better than current robots can
in environments with people.
Robot: Another type of rolling robot is one that has tracks, like NASA's Urban
Robot, Urbie. 
robot, designed by the RobotCub Consortium
is a difficult and dynamic problem to solve. Several robots have been made which
can walk reliably on two legs, however none have yet been made which are as robust
as a human. Typically, these robots can walk well on flat floors, and can occasionally
walk up stairs. None can walk over rocky, uneven terrain. Some of the methods
which have been tried are:
Technique: The Zero Moment Point (ZMP) is the algorithm used by robots such
as Honda's ASIMO. The robot's onboard computer tries to keep the total inertial
forces (the combination of earth's gravity and the acceleration and deceleration
of walking), exactly opposed by the floor reaction force (the force of the floor
pushing back on the robot's foot). In this way, the two forces cancel out, leaving
no moment (force causing the robot to rotate and fall over).
However, this is not exactly how a human walks, and the difference is quite apparent
to human observers, some of whom have pointed out that ASIMO walks as if it needs
ASIMO's walking algorithm is not static, and some dynamic balancing is used (See
below). However, it still requires a smooth surface to walk on.
Several robots, built in the 1980s by Marc Raibert at the MIT Leg Laboratory,
successfully demonstrated very dynamic walking. Initially, a robot with only one
leg, and a very small foot, could stay upright simply by hopping. The movement
is the same as that of a person on a pogo stick. As the robot falls to one side,
it would jump slightly in that direction, in order to catch itself.
Soon, the algorithm was generalised to two and four legs. A bipedal robot was
demonstrated running and even performing somersaults.
A quadruped was also demonstrated which could trot, run, pace and bound.
For a full list of these robots, see the MIT Leg Lab Robots page.
Balancing: A more advanced way for a robot to walk is by using a dynamic balancing
algorithm, which is potentially more robust than the Zero Moment Point technique,
as it constantly monitors the robot's motion, and places the feet in order to
main stability. This technique
was recently demonstrated by Anybots' Dexter Robot,
which is so stable, it can even jump.
Dynamics: Perhaps the most promising approach utilises passive dynamics where
the momentum of swinging limbs is used for greater efficiency. It has been shown
that totally unpowered humanoid mechanisms can walk down a gentle slope, using
only gravity to propel themselves. Using this technique, a robot need only supply
a small amount of motor power to walk along a flat surface or a little more to
walk up a hill. This technique promises to make walking robots at least ten times
more efficient than ZMP walkers, like ASIMO.
methods of locomotion
Global Hawk Unmanned Aerial Vehicle
A modern passenger airliner is essentially a flying robot, with two humans to
attend it. The autopilot can control the plane for each stage of the journey,
including takeoff, normal flight and even landing .
Other flying robots are completely automated, and are known as Unmanned Aerial
Vehicles (UAVs). They can be smaller and lighter without a human pilot, and fly
into dangerous territory for military surveillance missions. Some can even fire
on targets under command. UAVs are also being developed which can fire on targets
automatically, without the need for a command from a human. Other flying robots
include cruise missiles, the Entomopter and the Epson micro helicopter robot.
robot snakes. Left one has 32 motors, the right one 10.
- Snaking: Several
snake robots have been successfully developed. Mimicking the way real snakes move,
these robots can navigate very confined spaces, meaning they may one day be used
to search for people trapped in collapsed buildings.
The Japanese ACM-R5 snake robot 
can even navigate both on land and in water.
A small number of skating robots have been developed, one of which is a multi-mode
walking and skating device, Titan VIII. It has four legs, with unpowered wheels,
which can either step or roll.
Another robot, Plen, can use a miniature skateboard or rollerskates, and skate
across a desktop.
It is calculated that when swimming some fish can achieve a propulsive efficiency
greater than 90%.  Furthermore,
they can accelerate and manoeuver far better than any man-made boat or submarine,
and produce less noise and water disturbance. Therefore, many researchers studying
underwater robots would like to copy this type of locomotion.
Notable examples are the Essex University Computer Science Robotic Fish,
and the Robot Tuna built by the Institute of Field Robotics, to analyse and mathematically
model thunniform motion.
Kismet (robot) can produce a range of Facial expressions
robots are to work effectively in homes and other non-industrial environments,
the way they are instructed to perform their jobs, and especially how they will
be told to stop will be of critical importance. The people who interact with them
may have little or no training in robotics, and so any interface will need to
be extremely intuitive. Science fiction authors also typically assume that robots
will eventually communicate with humans by talking, gestures and facial expressions,
rather than a command-line interface. Although speech would be the most natural
way for the human to communicate, it is quite unnatural for the robot. It will
be quite a while before robots interact as naturally as the fictional C3P0.
- Speech recognition:
Interpreting the continuous flow of sounds coming from a human (speech recognition),
in real time, is a difficult task for a computer, mostly because of the great
variability of speech. The same word, spoken by the same person may sound different
depending on local acoustics, volume, the previous word, whether or not the speaker
has a cold, etc.. It becomes even harder when the speaker has a different accent.
Nevertheless, great strides have been made in the field since Davis, Biddulph,
and Balashek designed the first "voice input system" which recognized "ten digits
spoken by a single user with 100% accuracy" in 1952.
Currently, the best systems can recognise continuous, natural speech, up to 160
words per minute, with an accuracy of 95%.
One can imagine, in the future, explaining to a robot chef how to make a pastry,
or asking directions from a robot police officer. On both of these occasions,
making hand gestures would aid the verbal descriptions. In the first case, the
robot would be recognising gestures made by the human, and perhaps repeating them
for confirmation. In the second case, the robot police officer would gesture to
indicate "down the road, then turn right". It is quite likely that gestures will
make up a part of the interaction between humans and robots.
A great many systems have been developed to recognise human hand gestures.
expression: Facial expressions can provide rapid feedback on the progress
of a dialog between two humans, and soon it may be able to do the same for humans
and robots. A robot should know how to approach a human, judging by their facial
expression and body language. Whether the person is happy, frightened or crazy-looking
affects the type of interaction expected of the robot. Likewise, a robot like
Kismet can produce a range of facial expressions, allowing it to have meaningful
social exchanges with humans.
Many of the robots of science fiction have personality, and that is something
which may or may not be desirable in the commercial robots of the future.
Nevertheless, researchers are trying to create robots which appear to have a personality:
i.e. they use sounds, facial expressions and body language to try to convey an
internal state, which may be joy, sadness or fear. One commercial example is Pleo,
a toy robot dinosaur, which can exhibit several apparent emotions.
mechanical structure of a robot must be controlled to perform tasks. The control
of a robot involves three distinct phases - perception, processing and action
(robotic paradigms). Sensors give information about the environment or the robot
itself (e.g. the position of its joints or its end effector). This information
is then processed to calculate the appropriate signals to the actuators (motors)
which move the mechanical structure.
processing phase can range in complexity. At a reactive level, it may translate
raw sensor information directly into actuator commands. Sensor fusion may first
be used to estimate parameters of interest (e.g. the position of the robot's gripper)
from noisy sensor data. An immediate task (such as moving the gripper in a certain
direction) is inferred from these estimates. Techniques from control theory convert
the task into commands that drive the actuators.
longer time scales or with more sophisticated tasks, the robot may need to build
and reason with a "cognitive" model. Cognitive models try to represent the robot,
the world, and how they interact. Pattern recognition and computer vision can
be used to track objects. Mapping techniques can be used to build maps of the
world. Finally, motion planning and other artificial intelligence techniques may
be used to figure out how to act. For example, a planner may figure out how to
achieve a task without hitting obstacles, falling over, etc.
systems may also have varying levels of autonomy. Direct interaction is used for
haptic or tele-operated devices, and the human has nearly complete control over
the robot's motion. Operator-assist modes have the operator commanding medium-to-high-level
tasks, with the robot automatically figuring out how to achieve them. An autonomous
robot may go for extended periods of time without human interaction. Higher levels
of autonomy do not necessarily require more complex cognitive capabilities. For
example, robots in assembly plants are completely autonomous, but operate in a
study of motion can be divided into kinematics and dynamics. Direct kinematics
refers to the calculation of end effector position, orientation, velocity and
acceleration when the corresponding joint values are known. Inverse kinematics
refers to the opposite case in which required joint values are calculated for
given end effector values, as done in path planning. Some special aspects of kinematics
include handling of redundancy (different possibilities of performing the same
movement), collision avoidance and singularity avoidance. Once all relevant positions,
velocities and accelerations have been calculated using kinematics, methods from
the field of dynamics are used to study the effect of forces upon these movements.
Direct dynamics refers to the calculation of accelerations in the robot once the
applied forces are known. Direct dynamics is used in computer simulations of the
robot. Inverse dynamics refers to the calculation of the actuator forces necessary
to create a prescribed end effector acceleration. This information can be used
to improve the control algorithms of a robot.
each area mentioned above, researchers strive to develop new concepts and strategies,
improve existing ones and improve the interaction between these areas. To do this,
criteria for "optimal" performance and ways to optimize design, structure and
control of robots must be developed and implemented.
as an undergraduate area of study is fairly common. In the US, Universities that
have degrees focused on robotics include Carnegie
Mellon University, MIT
and UCLA . In Australia,
there are Bachelor of Engineering degrees at Deakin
University of Technology, and the University
of Western Sydney. Others offer degrees in Mechatronics.
In the UK, Robotics degrees are offered by a number of institutions including
of Essex, Heriot-Watt
University, the University of Liverpool, University
of Reading, Sheffield
Hallam University, Staffordshire University,University
of Sussex, The
Robert Gordon University and University of Tunku Abdul Rahman.
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