The robots are coming! The robots are coming!

By Robert Crowe

No need to ride a horse down the street yelling, “The robots are coming!” Too late. They’re already here. It is estimated that there are over one million industrial robots in operation, about one-half of them in Japan. The precise and repetitive requirements of industrial production are the obvious applications of robotic function.

It is evident that the use of robots has spread far beyond large manufacturing applications. Robots not only serve as small vacuum cleaners in the home, but also are available as mechanical pets, automatic lawn mowers, mechanized gutter cleaners and a host of other services.

Medical robots are used to accomplish precise functions. Micro units can be inserted into the blood stream and programmable functions can be adjusted automatically when a patient’s condition changes.

Scientific uses are being expanded. One example is the Mars Exploration. Two rovers traveled to the planet’s surface digging, analyzing and sending reports to Earth. The lifespan of these robots was expected to be 90 days but one unit is humming along for over 12 years.

The word “robot” is derived from the Czech word “robota” meaning “forced labor” or “drudgery” – referring to the repetition of actions. The word originates from a 1921 play by Czech writer Karl Capek. The play entitled “R. U. R” … Rossum’s Universal Robots … is about a society where robots have an uprising. Really.

Want to create a robot? Here are some standard ingredients:

  1. Power Supply – AC electricity or battery are the current powers of choice. Solar power has limited application. No mention yet of nuclear options.
  2. Sensors – Your robot needs some methods to gather information. Cameras, microphones, thermometers, barometers and maybe radar and sonar.
  3. Effectors – These are the objects that do the tasks: wheels, gears, arms, hands and grippers. Depending on the function of the robot the end effectors could be scalpels, drills or other tools.
  4. Output communicators – Speakers, computer connections, wi-fi capability, printing function and satellite access are desirable options.
  5. Control System – Control Systems are the brains of the operation. Think computer “hard drive.”

Voice recognition, computerized responses, artistic design, natural movement … Are you sure that’s a “people” to whom you are speaking?

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