What makes a robot? What is a robot? Well the term robot originally comes from Russia. A Czeck playwright, Karek Capek wrote a play in 1921 (translated in 1923) called “R.U.R.:Rossum’s Universal Robots.”. The word he adapted is the Czech word “robota” meaning “servitude” or “statute labour”. Although the play, which was only run of the mill Science Fiction, faded into history, the word he used remain and now standard in most languages, and means generally the same everywhere. The word “Robot” can also be translated as mechanical slave. This same word has had many other words either linked or created because of it. Some examples are: “Android”, “Droid”, “‘Bot”, and “Robotics”
Issac Asimov is credited with ‘coining’ the word robotics, which means the study of robots. He then formulated the famous “Three Laws of Robotics” which are:
1.A Robot may not harm a human or though inaction allow a human to come to harm
2.A Robot must obey commands given to it, except where they conflict with the First Law.
3.A Robot must maintain its own existence, except where it conflicts with the First or Second Law
However later, after feeling these to be insufficent he added a “Zeroth Law” which is: “A Robot may not harm humanity or through inaction allow humanity to come to harm”. The revised laws of robotics is:
1.A Robot may not harm humanity or though inaction allow a humanity to come to harm
2.A Robot may not harm a human or though inaction allow a human to come to harm, except where it conflicts with the Zeroth Law
3.A Robot must obey commands given to it, except where they conflict with the Zeroth or First Law
4.A Robot must persevere it’s own existence, except where it conflicts with the Zeroth, First or Second Law
These laws are not in place today as no robot has yet been built intelligent enough to understand these laws. In fact he created them in a response to the perceived “Frankenstein syndrome” (The belief that robots, particularly robots with human qualities, are menacing). His laws have filtered through much of the science fiction stories about robots since their invention.
A robot is basically made up of a base, brain, sensors and actuators.
The base of the robot can be stationary, (fixed) or mobile. Robots used in manufacture are examples of fixed robots. They cannot move their base away from where they are working. Mobile bases are typically platforms with wheels or tracks attached. Instead of wheels or tracks, some robots employ legs in order to move about.
The robots brain is a computer. However, computers are by design very sensitive to movement, vibration and dust. Also computers have a have to be a certain size which limits the robots uses. Fixed robots are not generally limited in this respect, as the “brain” can be placed in an unused corner and then linked to the robot by long cables. On the other hand, mobile robots are limited in the size of the computer they can use, as the “brains” are transported on the platform (there are a few exceptions). The constraints placed on mobile computer are size and weight, the larger in size, the larger in weight. However small sized computers also generally mean little processing power, and large computers are not powerful enough so the processing power of most mobile robots is severely limited.
Sensors used by robots vary between robots depending on their needs and uses. Each robot needs certain information in order to work properly. The actual sensors take many shapes and forms. Generally the sensors used by robots are:
Inertial, Acceleration and Heading sensors
Force/torque, accelerometers, tactile sensors
Actuators used in robotics is almost always a combination of different electro-mechanical devices. Sometimes robots use hydraulics, particularly in the car building industry. The electro-mechanical devices range from ‘muscle-wires’ to inexpensive RC-servo and motors. There are several types of motors available including:
These are then connected to cable, gears, axles, pulleys and alike to give the robot movement, and the ability to interact with it’s environment.