All You Need to Know about Robotics
Robotics springs from the root word, ‘robot’. A robot is basically a machine that resembles a human being and is able to copy some or all of human movements. A robot may function automatically or semi-automatically.
Now that you know what a robot is, the next question is ‘what is Robotics?’
Robotics is defined as a branch of engineering that deals with the design, construction, operation, and application of robots.
You may wonder why anyone would sit and write a whole article on robots or robotics. Well, if you aren’t already aware, perhaps it’s time you take some time out to read this article and get enlightened as to the uses and application of robotics in a world that is in a rapid state of technological evolution.
In search of growth and survival, man has developed so many things employing different techniques across history. And one of those techniques is the application of robots to make life easier and safer.
Yes, contrary to the movie ‘the terminator’, robots are actually quite safe and save man from hazardous tasks.
In this article, you will learn about the various applications of robotics that help man achieve higher efficiency.
The History of Robots
The early conception of robots can be traced back all the way to 3000BC when Egyptian water clocks used human figurines to strick the clock bells whenever an hour passes. There are other instances across the face of history where genius men made very good attempts at creating autonomous beings.
In the first century A.D., a man named Petronius Arbiter made a human figurine that could move like a human being. Another man by the name of Giovanni Torriani created a wooden robot that could fetch the Emperor’s daily bread from the store in 1557! By far this is my personal favourite. I mean, can you begin to imagine how much of a visionary this man was to be able to conjure up something like this way back in 1557?
Robotics reached a relative peak in the 1700s; countless ingenious robots were created during this time period.
In the 19th century, a talking doll by Edison and a steam-powered robot by Canadians planted the first seeds of inspiration for the modern robot and it is safe to say that the advancement in the field of robotics has taken an astronomical leap in the 20th century.
Types of Robots
Generally speaking, there are 5 types of robots:
1. Preprogrammed Robots
These types of robots operate in a controlled facility where they perform simple, monotonous tasks. A simple example is the robotic arms found in car assembly lines. The arm performs the simple functions of welding, engines assembly, and so on.
These arms are used because they can perform these tasks faster and for longer periods of time.
2. Humanoid Robots
These robots, as the name implies, are robots that are designed to look like humans and mimic simple to complex human emotion and behaviour. Humanoid robots can also perform human activities like running, jumping, and carrying objects of varying sizes, even handling delicate goods like glass and eggs.
See Sophia by Hanson Robotics and Atlas by Boston Dynamics.
3. Autonomous Robots
A prime example of an autonomous robot is the Roomba vacuum cleaner, which uses sensors to roam freely throughout a home.
Autonomous robots are unique in the sense that they do not require human supervision to operate. They utilize sensors to take in the world around them and then use fast computers to take the optimal next step based on their data and mission.
4. Teleoperated Robots
Teleoperated robots use a wireless network to enable human control from a safe distance. These robots usually work in extreme geographical conditions, weather, circumstances, etc. An example is the human-controlled submarine bots that are employed to fix broken underwater pipes or landmine-seeking drones deployed on battled fields.
5. Augmenting Robots
These robots serve the purposes of enhancing the human base abilities or replacing capabilities lost by a human. An example of the former is the exosuits used for lifting heavyweights. These suits enhance the base power level of the wearer and gift them with the ability to lift weights that are otherwise impossible for them to lift.
An example of the latter is prosthetic body parts that are used to replace those that are lost.
8 Applications of Robotics
1. Robots in Factories!
Yes, that’s right. Robots can be found everywhere in factories these days, and it’s not very hard to see why. There is a lot of repetitive action in manufacturing industries, actions such as welding, sealing, packaging, and a lot more. The human mind is prone to distraction, and with distraction comes errors.
Some errors are without heavy risks, as the worst-case scenario might be the loss of a product or a reduction in product quality while other errors are quite costly and could claim lives or body parts. But when you have robots doing these tasks, you do not have to worry about loss of life or product quality reduction. Why? Robots don’t get tired or distracted, also, they don’t die since they aren’t alive in the first place.
This is a win-win situation no matter how you look at it. In fact, it is a win-win-win situation because robots are a lot faster than humans. So, you not only get safety and accuracy but tremendous speed too.
Having these three factors present in any manufacturing industry means that output is maximized.
2. Robots in Farm Fields!
Have you ever worked on a farm before? If you haven’t then perhaps you could ask someone who has about their experience on the physical effort exerted to maintain production. If you have worked on a farm, and you still do, this will certainly come as a relief for you.
There are many recycled tasks in farming that are both energy and time-consuming. These tasks can be performed more suitable by robots thereby saving both time and energy. These tasks may include seeding, weed control, harvesting, etc. Robots are usually used for harvesting crops which allow farmers to be more efficient. There are different robots for different farming activities and such an example is the Ecorobotix. It is powered by solar energy and can be used to target and spray weeds using a camera system.
3. Robots Doing Household Chores
Robots are specifically designed to reduce human efforts. With the rapid advancement in technology generally, we have seen improved sophistication in machines. Robots are now capable to carry out simple and complex human chores at home. There are a lot of fully automated devices nowadays that provide such convenience at home. We have cooking bots, lawn-mower bots, and the most famous being vacuum bots.
These robots are fitted with what is called artificial intelligence that enables them to partake in machine learning. That way, they are able to develop the capacity to study the nature of their tasks and perform them ever more efficiently.
4. Application of Robotics in the Field of Medicine
Robotics can also be applied in the field of medicine. With their accuracy and efficiency, robots can a great tool for doctors to have in their hospitals. Robotic equipment being used in a hospital provides a better 3D view. An added advantage is that robots are able to use surgical tools a lot better than human hands. In this day and age, surgeries are increasingly being done by robots specifically designed for such purposes. One good reason is that machines are less disposed to making errors such as slipping of surgical blades from blood-slicked hands.
Another glorious point to mark out is the advent of prosthetics. Utterly damaged limbs that cannot be fixed through surgical means be replaced using artificial limbs created through the field of robotics.
5. Application of Robotics in the Military
In most first-world countries, robots are employed in the department of defence. They are used to control the missiles, locate snipers, survey enemy territory using disposable drones and so much more.
Surveillance bots are the most commonly used robots used in the military. They are flexible, robust, and disposable. The cameras are equipped with picks-up thermal signatures and are also fitted with a facial recognition system.
6. Robots Delivering My Products?
A robot delivering light goods and services is no longer a thing of fiction. Although there are still a lot of kinks to iron out, online shopping giants such as Amazon are not wasting any time utilizing this piece of technology to improve service quality. Drones are now being employed to deliver lightweight goods and services to consumers.
The advantage is that heavily populated cities with terrible traffic are longer a hindrance seeing as drones do not exactly follow traffic. This results in faster delivery speeds.
7. Automated Transportation
Automated transportation is another application for robotics. With the development of autonomous self-driving cars like the one from Google and Tesla, there is a significant reduction in danger to the lives of people. To clear up a simple misconception, self-driving robots are not robots that drive cars like chauffeurs or you and I; they are simple cars that are fitted with artificial intelligence that enables them to move according to very accurate calculations carried out by the software.
8. Robots in Class Rooms!
A lot of students suffer from different diseases that stop them from physically attending classes. So, a group of top engineers came up with the idea to use robots as some sort of proxy for the student. The robot is being remotely controlled by the student from his/her sickbed. The eyes of the robots serve as cameras while the limbs are there to aid in communication gestures. The whole essence of this is to create a feeling of closeness between the student and the classroom.
Will Robots Displace The Human Workforce?
This is a very valid question. In the early 20th century, horses were the main means of transportation and were beast largely used on farmlands. Horse employment seemed pretty much indispensable. 50 years later, cars and tractors made short work of these beasts. Do you see where I’m going with this?
While Humans are a thousand times smarter and more adaptable than horses, it is indeed valid to worry about being replaced by robots. As these machines become more nimble, more intelligent, the human race seems more vulnerable. You will be astonished at the feats achieved by modern artificial intelligence. So, this begs the question, “Will robots become smart enough to do away with the human workforce?” Well, yes and no.
As things stand, robots on their own do not have that capability, but if you look at the rate at which we become increasingly dependent on them, and the rate at which you find them in more sectors of human life with each passing year, it is indeed not farfetched.
According to Economist.com, A new working paper concludes that, between 1990 and 2007, each industrial robot added per thousand workers reduced employment in America by nearly six workers.
It is safe to say that there is a major shift in paradigm regarding the way things are being done, and the level of influence technology has in our lives. What used to be a thing of fiction, only seen in movies and cartoons is now very real; in fact, we have interacted with it at some point in time.
The introduction of robots into our daily activities has indeed made life easier and more convenient, and with time, robots will cover even more parts of our lives. Do not be alarmed, but robots are taking over!