Robotics is an interdisciplinary science and engineering sector related to the development, design, and use of mechanical robots. Our guide will give you a detailed insight into robotics, including the various types of robots and how they are implemented across industries.
What Is Robotics?
Robotics combines science, technology, and engineering to create robots that replace (or replicate) human behaviour. Pop culture has always been intrigued by robots. R2-D2. Optimus Prime. WALL-E. These exaggerated, humanoid robot designs typically seem like a parody of the real thing, or are they more planning than we realize? Robots are developing intellectual and mechanical abilities that would not bring the prospect of an R2-D2-like computer out of reach in the future.
When technology advances, so do the reach of what is called robotics. In 2005, 90% of all robots were found assembling cars in automotive factories. These robots mainly consist of mechanical arms for the screwing or welding of some parts of a vehicle. Today, we see an evolved and extended concept of robotics that involves the production, creation, and use of robots that explore the harshest environments on Earth, robots that assist law enforcement, and even robots that aid in almost every health area care.
Although the robotic world as a whole is expanding, the robot has some consistent characteristics:
- Robots are all made up of some form of mechanical structure. The mechanical component of a robot helps complete the tasks in the setting for which it is built. For example, the Mars 2020 Rover wheels are individually motorized and made of titanium tubes that allow them to grip the red planet’s harsh terrain firmly.
- Robots require electrical parts that control and power the system. Essentially, electricity (e.g., battery) is needed to power a massive proportion of robots.
- Robots have at least some degree of computer programming. Without a set of codes telling it what to do, a robot will be yet another piece of a simple computer. Inserting a program into a robot gives it the ability to know when and how to execute a mission.
The robotics industry is still pretty young and has already made great strides. From the lowest reaches of our oceans to the highest heights of outer space, robots can be seen performing tasks that humans could not have dreamed of accomplishing.
Types of Robots
Mechanical robots come in all shapes and sizes to carry out their duties. They are built for efficiency. From the 0.2 millimetre-long “RoboBee” to the 200-meter-long robotic vessel “Vindskip,” robots are growing to perform tasks that humans cannot do. In particular, there are five types of robots:
1. Pre-Programmed Robots
Pre-programmed robots work in a regulated environment where they perform basic, monotonous tasks. The mechanical Arm on the automobile assembly line will be an example of a pre-programmed robot. The Arm serves one function—welding the door, putting a particular part in the engine. It is a job to perform the role longer, quicker, and more effectively than a person.
2. Humanoid Robots
Humanoid robots are robots that behave and look like and imitate human behaviour. These robots typically perform human-like tasks (like running, jumping, and carrying objects) and are often built to look like us, even with facial features and expressions. Two of the most famous humanoid robots are Sophia (in the video above) by Hanson Robotics and Atlas by Boston Dynamics.
3. Autonomous Robots
Autonomous robots work independently from human operators. These robots are typically designed to perform tasks in open environments that do not involve human supervision. An example of an autonomous robot is the Roomba vacuum cleaner, which uses sensors to move freely around the house.
4. Teleoperated Robots
Teleoperated robots are human-controlled mechanical robots. These robots typically operate under extreme geographic locations, weather, circumstances, etc. Examples of teleoperated robots are human-controlled submarines used to repair underwater pipe leakage during a BP oil spill or drones used to detect landmines on a battlefield.
5. Augmenting Robots
Increase robots either improve existing human capabilities or substitute the abilities that humans might have lost. Some examples of augmenting robots are robotic prosthetic limbs or exoskeletons used to lift heavy weights.
- Helping fight forest fires
- Working alongside humans in manufacturing plants (known as co-bots)
- Robots that offer companionship to elderly individuals
- Surgical assistants
- Last-mile package and food order delivery
- Autonomous household robots that carry out tasks like vacuuming and mowing the grass
- Assisting with finding items and carrying them throughout warehouses
- Used during search-and-rescue missions after natural disasters
- Landmine detectors in war zones
The Advantages of Robots
Possibly the oldest and most well-known client of robots is the production industry. These robots and co-bots (bots working alongside humans) effectively test and assemble goods, such as cars and industrial machinery. Right now, it is estimated that more than three million industrial robots are in operation.
Packaging, storing, and quality control robots are becoming a must-have for most retailers and logistics firms. Since we now expect our packages to arrive at blazing rates, in warehouses, and even on the road, logistics companies employ robots to help optimize time productivity. Right now, your goods are taken off the shelf by machines, carried around the factory floor, and packed. Besides, an increase in last-mile robotics (robots that bring your delivery to your door independently) means that you can have a face-to-face experience with a logistics robot shortly.
It is no longer science fiction. All across our homes, robots can be seen helping with chores, reminding us of our schedules, and even entertaining our children. The autonomous vacuum cleaner Roomba is the most well-known example of a home robot. Moreover, robots have now developed to do everything from mowing grass autonomously to cleaning pools.
Is there anything that is more like science fiction than autonomous vehicles? These self-driving vehicles are no longer just fiction. Self-driving cars, a mix of data science and robotics, are taking the planet by storm. Car manufacturers such as Tesla, Ford, Waymo, Volkswagen, and BMW are all working on the next wave of driving, allowing us to sit back, relax, and enjoy the trip. Uber and Lyft rideshare companies are also creating autonomous ride-sharing vehicles that do not require cars to be driven by humans.
In the healthcare industry, robots have made huge strides. These mechanical marvels are used in nearly every healthcare area, from robot-assisted operations to bots that help people improve from physical therapy injuries. Toyota’s healthcare assistants, who help people recover the ability to walk, are examples of robots at work in healthcare, and “TUG,” a robot built to walk autonomously around a hospital and carry everything from medications to clean linens.