There is no consensus onwhich machines qualify as robots, but there is general agreement among experts and the public that robots tend to do some or all of the following: move around, operate amechanical limb, sense and manipulate their environment, and exhibit intelligent behavior, especially behavior which mimics humans or other animals.Stories of artificial helpers and companions and attempts to create them have a longhistory but fullyautonomousmachines only appeared in the 20th century. The firstdigitallyoperated and programmable robot, theUnimate, was installed in 1961 to lift hot pieces of metal from a die casting machine and stack them. Today, commercial andindustrial robotsare in widespread use performing jobs more cheaply or with greater accuracy and reliability than humans. They are also employed for jobs which are toodirty, dangerous or dull to be suitable for humans. Robots are widely used inmanufacturing, assembly and packing, transport, earth and space exploration, surgery,weaponry, laboratory research, and mass production of consumer and industrial goods.
People have a generally positive perception of the robots they actually encounter.Domestic robotsfor cleaning and maintenance are increasingly common in and aroundhomes. There is anxiety, however, over the economic impact of automation and the threatof robotic weaponry, anxiety which is not helped by the depiction of many villainous,intelligent, acrobatic robots in popular entertainment. Compared with their fictionalcounterparts, real robots are still benign, dim-witted and clumsy.
It appears to have intent or agency.The last property, the appearance of agency, is important when people are consideringwhether to call a machine a robot, or just a machine. (Seeanthropomorphismfor examples of ascribing intent to inanimate objects.)
For robotic engineers, the physical appearance of a machine is less important than theway its actions arecontrolled. The more the control system seems to haveagencyof itsown, the more likely the machine is to be called a robot. An important feature of agencyis the ability to make choices.
A mechanical humanoid, likeASIMO,is almost always characterized as a robot,usually as a service robot.Even for a 3-axis CNC milling machine using the same control system as a robot arm, itis the arm which is almost always called a robot, while the CNC machine is usually just amachine. Having eyes can also make a difference in whether a machine is called a robot,since humans instinctively connect eyes with sentience. However, simply beinganthropomorphic is not a sufficient criterion for something to be called a robot. A robotmust do something; an inanimate object shaped like ASIMO would not be considered arobot.