The field of robotics is closely related to AI. Intelligence is required for robots to be able to handle such tasks as object manipulation and navigation, with sub-problems of localization (knowing where you are, or finding out where other things are), mapping (learning what is around you, building a map of the environment), and motion planning (figuring out how to get there) or path planning (going from one point in space to another point, which may involve compliant motion – where the robot moves while maintaining physical contact with an object).
Robotics is the branch of mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and computer science that deals with the design, construction, operation, and application of robots, as well as computer systems for their control, sensory feedback, and information processing.
These technologies deal with automated machines that can take the place of humans in dangerous environments or manufacturing processes, or resemble humans in appearance, behavior, and/or cognition. Many of today’s robots are inspired by nature contributing to the field of bio-inspired robotics.
The concept of creating machines that can operate autonomously dates back to classical times, but research into the functionality and potential uses of robots did not grow substantially until the 20th century. Throughout history, robotics has been often seen to mimic human behavior, and often manage tasks in a similar fashion. Today, robotics is a rapidly growing field, as technological advances continue; researching, designing, and building new robots serve various practical purposes, whether domestically, commercially, or militarily. Many robots do jobs that are hazardous to people such as defusing bombs, mines and exploring shipwrecks.
There are many types of robots; they are used in many different environments and for many different uses, although being very diverse in application and form they all share three basic similarities when it comes to their construction:
- Robots all have some kind of mechanical construction, a frame, form or shape designed to achieve a particular task. For example, a robot designed to travel across heavy dirt or mud, might use caterpillar tracks. The mechanical aspect is mostly the creator’s solution to completing the assigned task and dealing with the physics of the environment around it. Form follows function.
- Robots have electrical components which power and control the machinery. For example, the robot with caterpillar tracks would need some kind of power to move the tracker treads. That power comes in the form of electricity, which will have to travel through a wire and originate from a battery, a basic electrical circuit. Even gas powered machinesthat get their power mainly from gas still require an electrical current to start the gas using process which is why most gas powered machines like cars, have batteries. The electrical aspect of robots is used for movement (through motors), sensing (where electrical signals are used to measure things like heat, sound, position, and energy status) and operation (robots need some level of electrical energy supplied to their motors and sensors in order to activate and perform basic operations)
- All robots contain some level of computer programming code. A program is how a robot decides when or how to do something. In the caterpillar track example, a robot that needs to move across a muddy road may have the correct mechanical construction, and receive the correct amount of power from its battery, but would not go anywhere without a program telling it to move. Programs are the core essence of a robot, it could have excellent mechanical and electrical construction, but if its program is poorly constructed its performance will be very poor or it may not perform at all. There are three different types of robotic programs: remote control, artificial intelligence and hybrid. A robot with remote control programing has a preexisting set of commands that it will only perform if and when it receives a signal from a control source, typically a human being with a remote control. It is perhaps more appropriate to view devices controlled primarily by human commands as falling in the discipline of automation rather than robotics. Robots that useartificial intelligence interact with their environment on their own without a control source, and can determine reactions to objects and problems they encounter using their preexisting programming. Hybrid is a form of programming that incorporates both AI and RC functions.