From the robot maid Rosie in The Jetsons, to the famous droids of Star Wars R2-D2 and C-3PO, to Arnold Schwarzenegger in the function of a cyborg in The Terminator, to Robocop, I, Robot, The Matrix, Robots… Human beings have long been fascinated with the notion of robots, a term that can broadly be described as an artificial human being. While in the past humans only fantasized about them, today, many types of robots are a reality. For example, there are industrial robots, toy robots, robots that help in space exploration, robots used in the medical field, robots used in agriculture, to increasingly humanoid robots being created for the service sector, whether helping with the chores in the family or as caregivers for the elderly and the disabled.
Given below are a number of the types of robots that have been conceived by humans, many of whom are already in active use.
Robots today are being utilized in a variety of industrial applications. Any job that involves repetitiveness, endurance, speed, dependability, and accuracy can be achieved much better by robots; which is why many industrial jobs that used to be made by humans are increasingly carried out by robots. For example, for the past 30 years or so robots have increasingly taken over the fully automated production model of the automobile industry, wherein a chassis of a vehicle is transported along a conveyor belt and is welded, affixed, painted, and assembled by a sequence of robot stations. Some of the other industrial jobs robots are performing are palletizing and packaging goods, dispensing jobs, robots, and laboratory applications that pick miniscule electronic components from trays or strips and accurately place them on printed circuit boards in the electronics industry.
Also known as Automated Guided Vehicles, or AGVs, mobile robots are used for transporting material over large building complexes, such as hospital grounds, warehouses, and container ports, using wires or markers located in the floor, or lasers, or vision, to sense the environment they operate in. An advanced form of the AGV is the SGV, or the Self Guided Vehicle, like PatrolBot Gofer, Tug, and Speci-Minder. This can be taught to autonomously navigate within a space, or do it by being given a plan of the area. These robots have the ability of performing tasks that are non-serial and non-repetitive in environment that are complex, hence are defined as intelligent robots.
And There’s So Much More!
Although the idea of robots planting seeds, plowing fields, and gathering the harvest may seem straight out of a futuristic science fiction book, nevertheless there are a number of robots in the experimental stages of being used for agricultural purposes, such as robots that can pick apples, prune grapevines, transplant seedlings, and so on. In fact, there already is a kind of robot that shears sheep in Australia.
Nowadays, robots that can perform house duties are also being manufactured. However, the technology of house robots isn’t being used commercially. Some examples include robotic pool cleaners and robotic vacuum cleaners. Robotics programming is a means of feeding information into the robots regarding what tasks are to be accomplished and how. The use of robots in household may be common after more development in this field. Scientists are working on technologies that can be integrated in future robotic pets. These can enable the pets to better mingle with families, and likewise provide care and protection.
Future robotics systems may come up with benefits that we cannot even imagine of. In many films, the robotic hand has been showed, who knows it may become a reality in the very near future. The advantages of robotics are certainly predicted to increase in several other fields over time.
These robots are employed in places that are hazardous to humans, or are inaccessible or far away. A human operator located at a distance from a telerobot controls its action. This was accomplished with the branch of the space shuttle. Some other examples of telerobots are laparoscopic surgery being carried out with the help of a telerobot, or doctors using remotely located robots to communicate with their patients. This enables them to treat patients anywhere in the world. This has the full potential of patients in remote places of the world, without adequate medical facilities, being able to consult doctors across the world, or even in the following town, and the doctors in turn having the ability to monitor them. Telerobots are also useful in nuclear power stations where they, instead of humans, can handle hazardous material or undertake operations potentially harmful for humans.
Telerobots are particularly useful for space exploration. Some of the applications in space that are on anvil are robots used for the operation of satellites, robotic arms for manufacturing in space, robots used for constructing space ships and space stations, and so on.
Robots are also being used for scientific or space explorations. Today, two important devices exist which are proven space robots. One is the Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) and the other is the Remote Manipulator System (RMS). One of the best known ROV’s is the Sojourner rover that was deployed by the Mars Pathfinder spacecraft. Several NASA centers are involved in developing planetary explorers and space-based robots.
Robots are used for different purposes that are demanding, exhaustive and require a high degree of proficiency and precision. Today we cannot imagine work without the use of robots. Robots will be used in all fields of life with the advancement in the field of science and technology.
Telerobots are also being increasingly used for military purposes, for instance the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle used for surveillance and also fire at targets. Some of them have even advanced to the degree of having the ability to automatically make decisions like choosing the location to fly to, and deciding which enemy target to engage with. Many telerobots are being used by the US military in Afghanistan and Iraq to diffuse IEDs, or Improvised Explosive Devices. An Unmanned Ground Vehicle, or UGV, is on the anvil which can carry out military missions independently.
The Japanese are in the first line in these types of robots. Essentially, this category comprises any robot that is used outside an industrial facility, although they can be sub-divided into two main types of robots: one, robots used for professional jobs, and the second, robots used for personal use. Amongst the former type are the above mentioned robots used for military use, then there are robots that are used for underwater jobs, or robots used for cleaning hazardous waste, and the like.
Personal use robots are becoming ever more popular, with increased sophistication in Artificial Intelligence and with them becoming increasingly affordable, and are being seen in areas such as caregiving, pet robots, entertainment, and house cleaning. Although it is more costly and difficult to make highly intelligent and sensitive machines, but service robots designed with minimal intelligence are already fairly common, such as the vacuum cleaning robots.
The creation of the amazing walking humanoid named Asimo gave the impetus for several others, such as the house-helping robot named Wakamaru, and Aibo, the robot dog. Then there are the popular robocon competitions held in Japan, with robots playing soccer or having fighting matches.
Another area where personal use robots are being introduced is under the care for the elderly. In countries where there are growing numbers of the aged with comparatively fewer numbers of young people to provide them with care, due to low birth rate and increased longevity, such as is true in Japan and a growing number of Western countries, robots are increasingly thought to become the answer. These robots are being designed to provide physical services such as carrying bedridden elderly people (or even the handicapped), or washing for them, and doing various other day-to-day tasks. And then there are robots being designed to provide mental services, such as offering the therapeutic effect of interacting with the often lonely elderly people.
Surgical robots are those which are computer controlled robotic structures employed by the surgeons for the surgeries. Bio-robots can be identified as a group of robots designed so as to serve as to know the humans or animals or to have perception about them. Rehabilitation robots are those which are build for supporting the lives of infirm and elderly peoples. They can also be utilized for providing training and therapy to them.
GE’s HOSPITAL ROBOT: In order to curb the mistakes in sterilization and operation preparation GE is building a robot which can facilitate these things and reduce the causes of infection during operation. Not only this, the intended role of this robot is to sort, sterilize and prepare the operation tools automatically.
Da-VINCI SURGICAL SYSTEM: The American company Intuitive Surgical has designed this medical robot designated to facilitate a complex surgeries using minimal invasion. This robot system is monitored by a surgeon from a control panel. The robot is made up of the four robotic arms, three of them are intended for the observance of the objects which contain the instruments and they can also act as scalpels, scissors or electrocautery instruments. For stereoscopic vision the fourth robotic arm carries the endoscopic camera with two lenses.
Hence, the trend is towards developing more and more sophisticated humanoid types of robots, with human-like physical features and intellectual abilities.