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In practice, it is usually an electromechanical system which, by its appearance or movements, conveys a sense that it has intent or agency of its own. The word robot can refer to both physical robots and virtual software agents, but the latter are usually referred to as bots. There is no consensus on which 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 a mechanical 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 long history but fully autonomous machines only appeared in the 20th century. The first digitally operated and programmable robot, the Unimate, was installed in 1961 to lift hot pieces of metal from a die casting machine and stack them. Today, commercial and industrial robots are in widespread use performing jobs more cheaply or with greater accuracy and reliability than humans. They are also employed for jobs which are too dirty, dangerous or dull to be suitable for humans. Robots are widely used in manufacturing, 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 robots for cleaning and maintenance are increasingly common in and around homes. There is anxiety, however, over the economic effect of automation and the threat of robotic weaponry, anxiety which is not helped by the depiction of many villainous, intelligent, acrobatic robots in popular entertainment. Compared with their fictional counterparts, real robots are still benign, dim-witted, and clumsy.  Defining characteristics
KITT is mentally anthropomorphic, while ASIMO is physically anthropomorphic While there is no single correct definition of "robot", a typical robot will have several or possibly all of the following characteristics.
It is composed entirely, or almost entirely, from artificial substances. It can sense its environment, and manipulate or interact with things in it.
A factory automation arm is almost always characterized as an industrial robot. like ASIMO. A zoomorphic mechanical toy. the physical appearance of a machine is less important than the way its actions are controlled. is important when people are considering whether to call a machine a robot. is almost always characterized as a robot. would quite likely be called a robot. • • • • • A clockwork car is never considered a robot.) Mental agency For robotic engineers. like Roboraptor. • • • • • • A player piano is rarely characterized as a robot. is almost always characterized as a mobile robot or service robot. ASIMO or Aibo). An important feature of agency is the ability to make choices. A self-controlled car which could sense its environment and make driving decisions based on this information. The last property. It appears to have intent or agency. which can make decisions. which could drive in a programmable sequence. Physical agency However. A CNC milling machine is very occasionally characterized as a robot. usually as a service robot. It makes dexterous coordinated movements. is usually characterized as a robot. it would be called a robot.• • • • • • It has some ability to make choices based on the environment. often using automatic control or a preprogrammed sequence. It moves without direct human intervention. Even for a 3-axis CNC milling machine using the same control system as a robot arm. if a machine appears to be able to control its arms or limbs.g. A sentient car. the more likely the machine is to be called a robot. might be called a robot. navigate freely and converse fluently with a human. like Bigtrak. The more the control system seems to have agency of its own. it is the arm which is almost always called a robot. Having eyes can also make a difference in whether a machine is called a robot. the appearance of agency. It moves with one or more axes of rotation or translation. . A remotely operated vehicle is sometimes considered a robot (or telerobot). such as the 1990s driverless cars of Ernst Dickmanns or the entries in the DARPA Grand Challenge. for many laymen.  A mechanical humanoid. while the CNC machine is usually just a machine. like the fictional KITT. (See anthropomorphism for examples of ascribing intent to inanimate objects. or just a machine. such as a self-guided rover or selfguided vehicle. and especially if it appears anthropomorphic or zoomorphic (e. It is programmable. An autonomous wheeled or tracked device. is usually considered a robot. A car with an onboard computer.
the European Robotics Research Network (EURON). multipurpose. The International Organization for Standardization gives a definition of robot in ISO 8373: "an automatically controlled. reprogrammable. a pioneer in industrial robotics. For example. tools. Joseph Engelberger. and many national standards committees. manipulator programmable in three or more axes." This definition is used by the International Federation of Robotics. The Robotics Institute of America (RIA) uses a broader definition: a robot is a "reprogrammable multi-functional manipulator designed to move materials. simply being anthropomorphic is not a sufficient criterion for something to be called a robot. A robot must do something.since humans instinctively connect eyes with sentience. but I know one when . parts. programmable and servo-controlled robots with continuous point-to-point trajectories. There is no one definition of robot which satisfies everyone. once remarked: "I can't define a robot. However. an inanimate object shaped like ASIMO would not be considered a robot. automated devices that manipulate objects with predetermined cycles. The RIA subdivides robots into four classes: devices that manipulate objects with manual control. or specialized devices through variable programmed motions for the performance of a variety of tasks". and many people have their own.  Definitions A laparoscopic robotic surgery machine It is difficult to compare numbers of robots in different countries. which may be either fixed in place or mobile for use in industrial automation applications. and robots of this last type which also acquire information from the environment and move intelligently in response. since there are different definitions of what a "robot" is.
In Greek drama. The drummer could be made to play different rhythms and different drum patterns by moving the pegs to different locations. a Muslim inventor during the Artuqid dynasty. and described machines powered by air pressure. as a dramatic device that usually involved lowering a deity. the mythical statue of Pygmalion that came to life. usually Zeus.Many ancient mythologies include artificial people. the Greek mathematician Archytas of Tarentum postulated a mechanical steam-operated bird he called "The Pigeon". Al-Jazari's programmable humanoid robots Al-Jazari (1136–1206). entertaining guests at royal drinking parties. and the first programmable humanoid robots in 1206. such as the mechanical servants built by the Greek god Hephaestus (Vulcan to the Romans). designed and constructed a number of automated machines. including kitchen appliances. The robots appeared as four musicians on a boat in a lake. literally God from the machine. and Galatea. Hero of Alexandria (10–70 AD) created numerous user-configurable automated devices. musical automata powered by water. In the 4th century BC. His mechanism had a programmable drum machine with pegs (cams) that bumped into little levers that operated percussion instruments. the Deus Ex Machina was contrived.  Early modern developments . steam and water. by wires into the play to solve a seemingly impossible problem. the clay golems of Jewish legend and clay giants of Norse legend. Su Song built a clock tower in China in 1088 featuring mechanical figurines that chimed the hours.
via mechanism.Tea-serving karakuri. crane its neck. a pipe player and a duck. praying walking Alamet. Tokyo National Science Museum. and swallow food from the exhibitor's hand. Pictures from Yildiz Place by Oktan Keleş. and it gave the illusion of digesting its food by excreting matter stored in a hidden compartment. some of which served tea. created an array of extremely complex mechanical toys. . Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519) sketched plans for a humanoid robot around 1495. Da Vinci's notebooks. Jacques de Vaucanson exhibited several life-sized automatons: a flute player. The design was probably based on anatomical research recorded in his Vitruvian Man. Complex mechanical toys and animals built in Japan in the 1700s were described in the Karakuri zui (Illustrated Machinery. Based on patents for "teleautomation". 19th century. contain detailed drawings of a mechanical knight now known as Leonardo's robot. The mechanical duck could flap its wings. able to sit up. known as "Japan's Edison" or "Karakuri Giemon". with mechanism. fired arrows drawn from a quiver. In 1738 and 1739. 1889 . Tesla hoped to develop it into a weapon system for the US Navy. rediscovered in the 1950s. In 1898 Nikola Tesla publicly demonstrated a radio-controlled torpedo. It is not known whether he attempted to build it. and even painted a Japanese kanji character. wave its arms and move its head and jaw. 1796)  Modern developments The Japanese craftsman Hisashige Tanaka (1799–1881).
A robot might be designed to perform one particular task extremely well.  The first truly modern robot. They followed Televox with a number of other simple robots. including one called Rastus. Westinghouse Electric Corporation created Televox. the first robot put to useful work.  Robots can also be classified by their specificity of purpose. made in the crude image of a black man.  Types of robots TOPIO.  In 1928. The first electronic autonomous robots were created by William Grey Walter of the Burden Neurological Institute at Bristol. Japan's first robot. These robots could sense light and contact with external objects. all . they created a humanoid robot known as Elektro for exhibition purposes.The first Unimate In 1926. England in 1948 and 1949. and use these stimuli to navigate. and it was installed in 1961 in a plant in Trenton. Of course. or a range of tasks less well. including the 1939 and 1940 World's Fairs. New Jersey to lift hot pieces of metal from a die casting machine and stack them. In the 1930s. Devol sold the first Unimate to General Motors in 1960. developed by TOSY. was invented by George Devol in 1954 and was ultimately called the Unimate. They were named Elmer and Elsie. Gakutensoku. digitally operated and programmable. was designed and constructed by biologist Makoto Nishimura. a humanoid robot can play ping-pong.
performing labour or life saving jobs. and mostly consist of a small number of cube shaped units. many new types of robot are being developed in laboratories around the world. researchers have mostly produced only parts of these complex systems. Algorithms have been designed in case any such robots become a reality. or acting as a fairground ride. It is expected that these new types of robot will be able to solve real world problems when they are finally realized. but on investigations into new types of robot. and Synthetic molecular motors. a factory robot arm can perform jobs such as cutting. and ferrofluids). and new ways to manufacture them. while a pick-and-place robot can only populate printed circuit boards. Possible applications include micro surgery (on the level of individual cells). Real robots are nowhere near that sophisticated however. Researchers also hope to be able to create entire robots as small as viruses or bacteria. utility fog. For example. while others argue that this hypothetical outcome is nonsense. but functioning robots have also been made such as the entrants to the Nanobot Robocup contest. the earth would turn into "grey goo". which can move relative to their neighbours. sensors. Much of the research in robotics focuses not on specific industrial tasks. such as bearings. look and feel different from robots with rigid skeletons. manufacturing. electroactive polymers. • • • Nanorobots: Nanorobotics is the still largely hypothetical technology of creating machines or robots at or close to the scale of a nanometer (10−9 meters). Some people have suggested that if there were nanobots which could reproduce. . Soft Robots: Robots with silicone bodies and flexible actuators (air muscles. controlled using fuzzy logic and neural networks. and are capable of different behaviors. Reconfigurable Robots: A few researchers have investigated the possibility of creating robots which can alter their physical form to suit a particular task. weaponry and cleaning. gluing. they would be constructed from molecular machines. So far.robots by their nature can be re-programmed to behave differently. for example SuperBot. A microfabricated electrostatic gripper holding some silicon nanowires. welding. Also known as nanobots or nanites. but some are limited by their physical form. which could perform tasks on a tiny scale. alternative ways to think about or design robots. like the fictional T-1000.  Research robots See also: Robotics — Robot Research While most robots today are installed in factories or homes.
A swarm of robots from the Open-source Micro-robotic Project • Swarm robots: Inspired by colonies of insects such as ants and bees. the SRI/MobileRobots CentiBots project  and the Open-source Micro-robotic Project swarm. exhibiting swarm intelligence. This could make them attractive for space exploration missions. or spying. which are being used to research collective behaviors. such as finding something hidden. in the same way an ant colony can be considered a superorganism. Swarms are also more resistant to failure. cleaning. Whereas one large robot may fail and ruin a mission. where failure can be extremely costly. but the emergent behavior of the swarm is more complex. . researchers are modeling the behavior of swarms of thousands of tiny robots which together perform a useful task. a swarm can continue even if several robots fail. The largest swarms so far created include the iRobot swarm. Each robot is quite simple. The whole set of robots can be considered as one single distributed system.