Robotics is the intersection of science, engineering, and technology that produces machines, called robots, that substitute for (or replicate) human actions. Pop culture has always been fascinated with robots. R2-D2. Optimus Prime. WALL-E. These exaggerated, humanoid concepts of robots usually seem like a caricature of the real thing…or are they more forward-thinking than we realize? Robots are gaining intellectual and mechanical capabilities that don’t put the possibility of an R2-D2-like machine out of reach in the future.
WHAT IS A ROBOT?
As technology progresses, so too does the scope of what is considered robotics. In 2005, 90% of all robots could be found assembling cars in automotive factories. These robots consist mainly of mechanical arms tasked with welding or screwing on certain parts of a car. Today, we’re seeing an evolved and expanded definition of robotics that includes the development, creation, and use of bots that explore Earth’s harshest conditions, robots that assist law enforcement, and even robots that assist in almost every facet of healthcare.
While the overall world of robotics is expanding, a robot has some consistent characteristics:
- Robots all consist of some sort of mechanical construction. The mechanical aspect of a robot helps it complete tasks in the environment for which it’s designed. For example, the Mars 2020 Rover’s wheels are individually motorized and made of titanium tubing that helps it firmly grip the harsh terrain of the red planet.
- Robots need electrical components that control and power the machinery. Essentially, an electric current (a battery, for example) is needed to power a large majority of robots.
- Robots contain at least some level of computer programming. Without a set of codes telling it what to do, a robot would just be another piece of simple machinery. Inserting a program into a robot gives it the ability to know when and how to carry out a task.
We’re bound to see the promise of the robotics industry sooner, rather than later, as artificial intelligence and software also continue to progress. Shortly, thanks to advances in these technologies, robots will continue getting smarter, more flexible, and more energy-efficient. They’ll also continue to be a main focal point in smart factories, where they’ll take on more difficult challenges and help to secure global supply chains.
Though relatively young, the robotics industry is filled with an admirable promise of progress that science fiction could once only dream about. From the deepest depths of our oceans to thousands of miles in outer space, robots will be found performing tasks that humans couldn’t dream of achieving alone.
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