“The first decade of the 21st century will be dominated by robots” – Toshitada Doi, Corporate Executive Vice President, Sony to Reuters reporters
A robot is a mechanical or virtual, artificial agent. It is usually an electromechanical system, which, by its appearance or movements, conveys a sense that it has intent or agency of its own. The word robot can refer to both physical robots and virtual software agents, but the latter are usually referred to as bots to differentiate.While there is still discussion about which machines qualify as robots, a typical robot will have several, though not necessarily all of the following properties:
Is not ‘natural’ i.e. has been artificially created. Can sense its environment. Can manipulate or interact with things in its environment. Has some degree of intelligence, or ability to make choices based on the environment, or automatic control / preprogrammed sequence. Is programmable. Can move with one or more axes of rotation or translation. Can make dexterous coordinated movements.
Although 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 akin 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.
A re-programmable multi-functional manipulator designed to move materials, parts, tools, or specialized devices through variable programmed motions for the performance of a variety of tasks.
“I can’t define a robot, but I know one when I see one. “
Joseph Engelberger, a pioneer in industrial robotics