You are on page 1of 12


1. Introduction
One of the main goals of the study of robotics today is to understand not only
the control systems used to stabilize the position, motion, and other forces of the
robot, but also to allow robots to effectively work via sensors and actuators in
dynamic environments.
The field of robotics has its origin in science fiction, the term ROBOT was derived
from the English translation of a fantasy play written in Czecholosolvakia around
1920. It took another 40 years before the modern technology of industrial ROBOTS
began. Today robots are highly automated mechanical manipulators controlled by
First, let's decide what a 'robot' is. To be a robot, it should have the ability to
think - make decisions. This may sound hard
This is a very common 'IF-THEN' statement.
A machine that can perform this instruction is truly a robot. So, the conclusion is that
to be called a robot; you really need an on-board brain and a way to program it.
Classification of ROBOTS:
• Robot like devices:
1. Prostheses
2. Exoskeletons
3. Telecherics
4. Locomotive mechanism
• Classification by coordinate system:
1. Cylindrical coordinate robots
2. Spherical coordinate robots
3. Jointed arm robots
4. Cartesian coordinate robots
• Classification by control method:
1. Non-servo controlled robots
2. Servo controlled robots
3. Point-to-point servo controlled robots
4. Continuous-path servo-controlled robots
The sensors used in robotics include wide range of devices that can be divided
into the following general categories:
1. Tactile sensors:
 Touch Sensors
 Force sensors
 Force sensing wrist
 Joint sensing
 Tactile array sensors
2. Proximity and Range sensors.
3. Miscellaneous sensors and sensor based system
2. 1. Tactile Sensors:
Tactile sensors are devices that indicate contact between themselves and some other
solid object.
2.1.1. Touch Sensors:
Touch sensors are used to indicate that contact has been made between two objects
without regard to the magnitude of the contacting force. Another use for touch
sensing device would be as a part of inspection probe that is manipulated by the
robot to measure the dimensions on the work part.
2.1.2. Force Sensors:
Capacity to measure forces permits the robots to perform a number of tasks.
Force sensing in robotics can be accomplished in several ways. A commonly used
technique is “force-sensing wrist”. This consists of a special load-cell mounted
between the gripper and the wrist. Another technique is to measure the torque being
exerted by each joint; this is usually accomplished by sensing motor current for each
of the joint motors.
2.1.3 Force-sensing wrist:
The purpose of force sensing wrist is to provide information about three components
of force and three moments being applied at the end of one arm. Since the forces are
usually applied to the wrist in the combination it is necessary to first resolve the
forces and moments into their six components. The kind of computation can be
carried out by the robot controller or by a specialized amplifier designed for this
purpose. Based on this calculations the, the robot controller can obtain the required
information of the forces and the moments being applied at the wrist.
2.1.4. Joint sensing:
If the robot uses dc servomotors then the torque being exerted by the motors is
proportional to the current flowing through the armature. A simple way to measure
this current is to measure the voltage drop across a small precision resistor in series
with the motor and power amplifier. This simplicity makes this technique attractive.
However measuring the joint torque has several disadvantages. First measurements
are made in joint space, while the forces of interest are applied by the tool. The
measurements therefore not only reflect the forces being applied at the tool, but also
the forces and torques required to accelerate the links of the arms to overcome the
friction and transmission losses of the joints.
2.1.5. Tactile array sensing:
A tactile array sensor is a special type of force sensor composed of a matrix of force
sensing elements. The force data provided by this type of device may be combined
with pattern recognition to describe a number of characteristics about the impression
contacting the array sensor surface. Among these characteristics are (1.) The
presence of an object (2.) The objects contact area, shape, location and orientation,
(3.) The pressure and pressure distribution and (4.) Force magnitude and location.
Tactile array sensors can be mounted on the fingers of the robot gripper or attached
to a worktable as a flat touch surface. The device is typically composed of an array of
conductive elastomer pads. As each pad is squeezed its electrical resistance changes
in response to the amount of deflection in the pad, which is proportional to the
applied force. By measuring the resistance of each pad, information about the shape
of the object against the array of sensing elements can be determined; in the
background is the CRT monitor display of the tactile impression made by the object
placed on the surface of the sensor device. Research into potential materials for
tactile sensors has lead to the development of a force sensing skin of polyvinylidene
di-Fluoride. This is a piezoelectric material which means that it generates an output
voltage when it is squeezed.
2 .2. Proximity Sensors:
Proximity sensors are used in robotics for the near-field work in connection with
object grasping or avoidance. The proximity sensors are further classified as:
2.2.1. Inductive sensors:
Sensors based on the change of inductance due to the presence of metallic object
are among the most widely used industrial proximity sensors. The effect of bringing
the sensor in close proximity to a ferromagnetic material causes a change in position
of the permanent magnet. Under static conditions there is no movement of the flux
lines and therefore, no current is induced in the coil. However as a ferromagnetic
object enters or leaves the field of the magnet, the resulting change in the flux lines
induces the current pulse whose amplitude and shape are proportional to the rate of
change in the flux. The voltage waveform observed at the output of the coil provides
an effective means for proximity sensing.
2.2.2. Hall Effect Sensors:
Hall effect relates the voltage between two points in a conducting or semi conducting
material to magnetic field across the material. When used by themselves, Hall-effect
sensors can only detect magnetized objects. However when used in conjunction with
a permanent magnet in a configuration they are capable of detecting all
ferromagnetic materials. Hall effect sensors are based on the principle of Lorentz
force which acts on a charged particle through a magnetic field. This force acts on a
charged particle traveling through a magnetic field whose axis is perpendicular to the
plane established by the direction of motion of the charged particle and the direction
of the field. Bringing ferromagnetic material close to the semiconductor-magnet
device would decrease the strength of the magnetic field, thus reducing the Lorentz
force and ultimately, the voltage across the semiconductor. This drop in voltage is the
key for sensing proximity with Hall-effect sensors.
2.2.3. Capacitive sensors:
Capacitive sensors are potentially capable of detecting all solid and liquid materials.
These sensors are based on detecting a change in capacitance induced by a surface
that is brought near the sensing element. The sensing element is a capacitor
composed of sensitive electrode and a reference electrode. A cavity of dry air is
usually placed behind the capacitive element to provide isolation. The rest of the
sensor consists of electronic circuitry which can be included as an integral part of the
unit, in which case it is normally embedded in a resin to provide sealing and
mechanical support. Typically, these sensors are operated in a binary mode so that a
change in the capacitance greater than a preset threshold ‘T’ indicates the presence
of the object, while changes below the threshold indicate the absence of an object
with respect to detection limits established by the value of ‘T’.
2.2.4. Ultrasonic sensors:
The basic element is an electro acoustic transducer, often of the piezoelectric
ceramic type. The resin layer protects the transducer from humidity, dust, and other
environmental factors; it also acts as an acoustical impedance matcher, since the
same transducer is generally used for both transmitting and receiving fast damping
of acoustic energy is necessary to detect objects at close range.
2.2.5. Optical proximity sensors:
This sensor consists of a solid-state light emitting diode (LED), which acts as a
transmitter of infrared light, and a solid-state photodiode which acts as the receiver.
The cones of light formed by focusing the source and the detector on the same plane
intersect in a long, pencil like volume. This volume defines the field of operation of
the sensor since a reflective surface which intersects the volume is illuminated by the
source and simultaneously “seen” by the receiver.
2. 3. Miscellaneous Sensors and Sensor-based Systems:
This category includes devices with the capability to sense variables such as
temperature, pressure, fluid flow, and electrical properties. Voice programming
systems can be used in robotics for oral communication of instructions to the robot.
Voice sensing relies on the techniques of speech recognition to analyze spoken words
uttered by a human being and compare those words with a set of stored word
patterns. When the spoken word matches the stored word pattern, this indicates that
the robot should perform some particular actions which correspond to the word or
series of words.
3. Evolutionary Algorithms
Charles Darwin first identified the process of natural selection in his monumental
work The Origin of Species. Certain characteristics that govern an individual's
chances of survival are passed to offspring during reproduction. Individuals with poor
characteristics die off, making the species stronger in general. Inspired by this
natural process of "survival of the fittest," evolutionary algorithms (EAs) attempt to
find a solution to a problem using simulated evolution in a computer.
There are two related, yet distinct, types of EAs. The first type, genetic
algorithms (GAs), involves manipulating a fixed-length bit string. The bit string
represents a solution to the problem being solved; it is up to the programmer to
determine the meaning of the string. The second, genetic programming, involves
generating expression trees as used by languages such as LISP and SCHEME. With
genetic programming, actual programs can be created and then executed.
Generally speaking, the process used in evolutionary learning begins by
randomly generating a population of individuals where each individual is a potential
solution to the problem. The population is the set of individuals generated. Each
individual contains a genome, the content produced during the execution of EAs. In
the case of GAs, the fixed-length bit string is the genome. Next, each individual in the
population is evaluated using a fitness function. Fitness functions use a method of
testing solution quality for the respective problem domain. How the fitness of an
individual is used depends on the implementation of the evolutionary algorithm.
Usually, a higher fitness value corresponds to a greater chance of the individual
being selected for reproduction. Different methods of producing the next generation
exist, but most commonly, two operators are employed: mutation and breeding.
Mutation involves randomly altering one or more genes in an individual's genome.
Breeding uses a crossover operation to combine components of
two parents' genomes to produce one or more children. Once a new generation is
created, the old one is discarded.
A cycle of evaluation and reproduction is repeated through several generations,
as specified by the programmer. The evolution process ceases after a termination
criterion has been met, and the result of the evolution run is the individual found to
be best so far. A summary of the components needed for EAs follows as:
• A genetic representation for potential solutions to the problem (i.e. fixed (or
variable)-length bit string, expression tree)
• A method to create an initial population of individuals
• A fitness function that plays the role of the environment, rating solutions in
terms of their "fitness"
• Operators that determine the composition of children
• Values for various parameters, which the evolutionary algorithm uses (solution
set size, probabilities of applying genetic operators, etc.)
3. 1 Robot Navigation:
As humans, we enjoy the luxury of having an amazing computer, the brain, and
thousands of sensors to help navigate and interact with the real world. The product of
aeons of evolution has enabled our minds to model the world around us based on the
information gathered by our senses. In order to navigate successfully, we can make
high-level navigation decisions, such as how to get from point A to point B, as well as
low-level navigation decisions, such as how to pass through a doorway. The brain's
capacity to adapt has also made it possible for people without certain sensory
capabilities to navigate throughout their environments. For example, blind people can
maneuver through unfamiliar areas with the aid of seeing-eye dogs or canes. Even
without all of our sensors, we are able to cope with familiar and unfamiliar
3. 2. Applying EAs to Robotic Navigation:
Evolutionary algorithms have been implemented to solve problems in robot
navigation. In particular, EAs have been used to get a robot to learn how to adapt to
its limited capabilities. Using GP in this way is termed evolutionary learning. Robot
navigation is a difficult problem to solve, and it becomes increasingly more difficult
when a robot encounters a failure in either its sensors, devices that tell a robot about
its environment, or its actuators, devices that allow a robot to physically interact with
its environment.
In most other EA applications, two distinct steps occur: an initial training period
is conducted by running the EA on a training set, followed by the execution of the
best-fit solution. With Continuous and Embedded Learning, the two steps are linked
and operate concurrently while the robot is performing its task. Thus, the learning
process is continuous. Figure 1 shows an outline of this approach.

Figure 1. The Continuous and Embedded Learning Model.

Key components of the model are:

• Learning continues indefinitely, allowing adaptation to sensory failure.
• Learning is done on a simulation model.
• The simulation model is updated to reflect changes in the real robot or
3. 3. Performance:
In an experiment, a robot was given the task of navigating to the opposite side of
a room through a passage in a wall starting from one wall and heading in a random
direction from -90 degrees to 90 degrees, with 0 pointing directly to the opposite
wall. An example course is shown in Figure 2. The measure of success of CEL was the
percentage of times the robot successfully reached the goal without bumping into
walls along the way or running out of time.

Figure 2

A Nomadic Technologies Nomad 200 Mobile Robot was used for the real-world
tests. The robot is a three-wheeled synchronized-steering unit that features seven
front-mounted sonar units. The monitor in the execution system combines the output
of sensors with information about the robot's actuator execution to determine sensor
failures. If a frontal sonar unit continuously outputs zero as the distance from the
robot to an obstacle but the robot keeps moving forward, then that sensor is marked
as having failed. In the experiment, sonar "failure" was simulated by covering the
sensor with a hard material. The initial rule-set used in the experiment gave the robot
a basic notion of how to get to the other side of the room, but did not take into
account obstacles or walls. The simulation model initially assumed all sensors were
With no evolution and all sensors functioning, the robot was able to navigate
successfully about 25% of the time. After 50 generations of evolution, the robot's
success rate increased to about 61%. With three sensors on the right side of the
robot disabled after 50 generations, the success rate dropped to about 42%, but
increased over 50 more generations to about 63%. Figure 3 shows the learning curve.

Figure 3
The results of the experiment show that a robot using CEL can not only learn how
to improve its navigation abilities by itself, but also re-learn how to navigate after
suffering the loss of some sensory capability. While the results may not be
terribly impressive, improvement in navigation and adaptation to changes in
capability are clearly shown.

4. Living on Their Own

Ecosystem-like settings are interesting from an alife perspective. Within
ecosystems, the main goal of a robot is self-preservation (staying operational for an
extended period of time). Resources, especially energy, are limited in time and
space. Consequently, robots must compete for them. Consequently, competition
forms the basis of all robot interactions in the system. There is a substantial amount
of alife research based on simulated ecosystems.
The basic ecosystem located at the Flemish Free University of Brussels (VUB) is a
5 m X 3 m space enclosed by walls (Figure 4). Initially it includes simple mobile
robots, the moles (Figure 5). The photo sensors, positioned at the front of the robot,
are used to navigate and to find objects in the ecosystem.

Figure 4

Figure 5
The arena also contains a charging station, where the robots can autonomously
recharge their batteries. The robots drive into the charging stations and make
contact with conductive plates that connect them to the energy source. This
electrical energy is food for robots. The robots constantly monitor their energy level
and in this way know when they are hungry. The robots' whole world revolves around
earning and competing for the electrical food. There is a limited amount of food in
the ecosystem. Also, the ecosystem contains competitors: small boxes that house
lamps emitting a modulated light. These lamps are connected to the same global
energy-source as the charging station; they therefore feed on the same source as the
robots. The robots must knock out the competitors (Figure 6). If a robot knocks a
competitor several times, the lamps inside the competitor dim, and the robot has an
additional amount of energy at its disposal from the charging station. After a while,
the competitor recovers and the lamps inside return to their default intensity. The
competitors establish a kind of work task for the robots that is paid in electric energy.

Figure 6
Research on robotic ecosystems usually deals with homogeneous agents, which
is also the case for the ecosystem described above. A heterogeneous set-up, in
contrast, is more interesting for several reasons. First, heterogeneity substantially
adds to the complexity of the environment, which is of key interest to alife-oriented
research. Second, artificial ecosystems with just one species are hardly biologically
relevant. The extended ecosystem features a new inhabitant in the form of the head,
which consists of a camera on a pan-tilt-unit and substantial vision capabilities.
However, as it is fixed to its position, the head cannot access the charging station,
and it is forced to cooperate with the mobile moles. When a mobile robot approaches
a pitfall, which it cannot distinguish from the charging station, the head can warn the
mobile robot. The mobile robot in exchange can share the benefit of the saved
energy with the head.
Recent developments have also shown that communication between robots is
very important; robots need to be able to share information and intentions. And they
have to negotiate their relationship with each other: "I will show you a food source!
Let me warn you of danger! What will you give me if I do this?" Recently scientists
have started to study how robots can construct a primitive language to communicate
exactly these kinds of concepts.

5. Emerging Trends and Applications of Robotics

5.1 Mars Rovers:
Planetary scientists have a unique problem when trying to collect data: in the
absence of an interplanetary manned space program, they must rely upon remote
sensing techniques. An invaluable part of their arsenal is spacecraft that can study
the region of interest in detail. Landers in particular are able to bring sensors and
instruments into close contact with the planetary environment. This allows them to
take direct measurements of properties such as soil mechanics and elemental
composition, as well as image surface features in greater detail than is possible with
orbiters or Earth-bound instruments. Landers, however, have the shortcoming that
they are limited to a single site for study. An important addition, then, is a mobile
robot, which can roam over a much larger segment of the terrain and can carry
imagers and other instruments to a variety of features spread over this larger area.
The recent Mars Pathfinder mission demonstrated the utility of such an
approach. The Sojourner Rover was carried to the surface of Mars by a lander. Over
an area approximately 10 meters in radius, it conducted soil experiments in several
different terrains, took detailed images of rocks and soils from centimeters away, and
placed its on-board spectrometer on 16 distinct targets (9 rocks and 7 soil sites).

Figure 8
Future missions plan to expand this successful technology by incorporating mobile
robots (“rovers”) which are capable of traversing even larger distances, carrying their
instruments to a wider variety of features and even caching samples along the way. A
key requirement for these new planetary robots is greater navigational autonomy,
since longer distances than in prior missions must be covered between
communications with Earth. The field of planetary exploration offers a rich
environment for mobile robotics research, encompassing many complicated issues
which must be tackled in order to produce successful missions. In particular, some of
the issues related to autonomous path-planning for planetary rovers. With the tools
provided by improvements in these areas, mobile robots will prove to be an even
more useful and robust addition to the techniques available for planetary exploration.
5.2 Biological Inspiration:
When trying to re-create biological phenomena, it makes sense to look at the
biological world for some good initial pointers. For instance, the study of robotic
locomotion is aided by observing and imitating biological systems. A robot is limited
when using wheels (very un-biological) in rough terrains, whereas a biologically
inspired robot would have legs like that of a spider for maneuvering around and over
Another example may be how a spider-like robot that loses a leg might adjust its
gait to complete a mission-critical task. One can look at an experiment performed as
an example. Here two legs from opposite sides of a spider were amputated. Two
possibilities existed for the spider: it could either retain a diagonal rhythm of
locomotion using four legs, but lose its ability to balance; or it could move three legs
at a time, offsetting its diagonal rhythm. The experiment showed that the spider
chose the second alternative, which was more mechanically stable. This apparently
has to do with the fact that although the walking patterns are determined in the
spiders “central oscillator,” they can be modified by feedback from sensory organs in
the legs. In effect, the spider adapted by reprogramming itself.