What is robotics?

May 8th, 2018
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The term robotics (also called robotics technology) refers to a subject area that deals with the research of robots. Robots are automated devices designed for specific physical tasks.

A more scientific definition is:

"Robots are sensorimotor machines designed to enhance the human capacity to act. They consist of mechatronic components, sensors and computer-based control elements. The complexity of a robot differs significantly from other machines in the greater number of degrees of freedom and the variety and scope of its behaviours." (Quoted after Christaller et al 2001, p. 18)

Roughly simplified, robots consist of a "brain" and a body, whereby the "brain" controls the body via algorithms. Sensors are used by robots to detect the environment and axle positions. Actuators (drive elements), on the other hand, make it possible to act within this detected environment.

Fields of application of robots

The Applications of robots are versatile. Depending on the intended use, there are different types of robots. On the one hand, there are the exploration robots, which are mainly used in places that are difficult to access in space and under water or also in the military (in the form of drones). On the other hand, there are industrial robots that are used for manufacturing in factories or picking goods in warehouses. In medicine, robots are used as medical robots that work more reliably and accurately than humans. In the household they have established themselves as service robots in the form of vacuum cleaner and lawn mower robots. In some hotels they are now used for room service. Toy robots are used for entertainment and care robots as a hybrid of medical and service robots are used in human care.

There is currently euphoria over the subject of self-propelled cars. The most important components of the robot (sensors, motors and computers) are invisibly embedded in the vehicle, so that the association with a robot is not necessarily obvious. Advances in hardware and computing power have made this development possible. According to experts, however, it will take several years before the technology is fully developed.

Technical challenges in robotics

There are currently three major challenges in the field of robotics:

  1. Robots understand their environment and what is happening around them is not good enough.
  2. The ability of robots to interact with humans and other robots is still limited.
  3. It is very time-consuming to build new robots because there are only a few experts with comprehensive knowledge in the fields of mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, robotics and computer science.

Robots can already drive, but they can't really run yet. At first glance, it may seem surprising that a two-legged robot is much more difficult to develop than a slow self-propelled car. The reason for the difficulty is that the interaction between a running robot and its environment is incredibly complex. His abilities are not yet sufficient to fully understand and grasp his environment. Another problem is keeping the balance and placing the foot at the next step. This is much more difficult on two legs than on four wheels.

My conclusion: robots can significantly improve our quality of life in many areas. We should therefore become friends with the idea of interacting with them in the future and working efficiently with them.


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