A robot is a mechanical or virtual artificial agent, usually an electro-mechanical machine that is guided by a computer program or electronic circuitry. Robots can be autonomous, semi-autonomous or remotely controlled and range from humanoids such as ASIMO and TOPIO to Nano robots, 'swarm' robots, and industrial robots. By mimicking a lifelike appearance or automating movements, a robot may convey a sense of intelligence or thought of its own. The branch of technology that deals with robots is called robotics.
Machinery was initially used for repetitive functions, such as lifting water and grinding grain. With technological advances more complex machines were developed, such as those invented by Hero of Alexandria in the 1st century AD, and the automata of Al-Jazari in the 12th century AD. The robots made by such inventors were more for the purpose of entertainment than for performing work.
As mechanical techniques developed through the Industrial age, more practical applications were proposed by Nikola Tesla, who in 1898 designed a radio-controlled boat. Electronics evolved into the driving force of development with the advent of the first electronic autonomous robots created by William Grey Walter in Bristol, England in 1948. The first digital and programmable robot was invented by George Devol in 1954 and was named the Unimate. It was sold to General Motors in 1961 where it was used to lift pieces of hot metal from die casting machines at the Inland Fisher Guide Plant in the West Trenton section of Ewing Township, New Jersey.
Robots have replaced humans in the assistance of performing those repetitive and dangerous tasks which humans prefer not to do, or are unable to do due to size limitations, or even those such as in outer space or at the bottom of the sea where humans could not survive the extreme environments.
There are concerns about the increasing use of robots and their role in society. Robots are blamed for rising unemployment as they replace workers in some functions. The use of robots in military combat raises ethical concerns. The possibility of robot autonomy and potential repercussions has been addressed in fiction and may be a realistic concern in the future.
Famous quotes containing the word robot:
“The person who designed a robot that could act and think as well as your four-year-old would deserve a Nobel Prize. But there is no public recognition for bringing up several truly human beings.”
—C. John Sommerville (20th century)
“Lets start with the three fundamental Rules of Robotics.... We have: one, a robot may not injure a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. Two, a robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law. And three, a robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.”
—Isaac Asimov (19201992)