Robotics – a brief introduction
Robotics is a domain of technology that combines various disciplines of engineering like electronics, mechanical and computer science. Robots are machines that are made up of mechanical parts and electronic circuits and can be re-programmed to perform various task autonomously through a computer.
Robots are machines that make life easy for humans by performing mundane and dangerous jobs. Robots can work at higher speed and for longer hours resulting in higher productivity of manufacturing units without compromising on efficiency and safety of human beings.
Robots have revolutionized many walks of life. They are being used in construction, manufacturing, automobile industry, agriculture, warehousing, logistics, entertainment, transportation, surveillance, aviation, shipping, space exploration, prosthetics, military, medical field etc.
There are various types of robots based on the type of work they are involved into.
Stationary robots: Stationary robots are those which are mostly used in manufacturing units and assembly lines of automobile companies. They are usually pre-programmed to perform a particular task like assorting, welding, painting, segregation etc. Instructions are fed into their control system through computer program and they perform same task daily. Human intervention is required to monitor and control their activities.
Mobile robots: Another type of robots are mobile robots. They are also pre-programmed to do certain tasks and can travel from one place to another through a guided path with help of sensors. Such robots are mostly wheeled robots and are used in warehousing, carrying and loading of heavy weight items in factories.
Teleoperated robots: These robots are controlled remotely through a control unit like drones, toy cars, robotic arms that are used in medical surgeries and international space station, remote controlled cranes, surveillance cameras, bomb detection and diffusion robots used by military etc.
Prosthetics: Prosthetics are robotic body parts are implanted in human body in case of damage of body part like limbs, hearts etc.
Humanoid Robot: Those robots which have the body shape that resembles human body are called humanoid robots. They also have vision, facial expression and bipedalism (balance on two legs).
Above mentioned robots are physical form of robots. Apart from them there are non-physical robots as well, which are mostly computer programs working as virtual assistants to humans. Some of the example are interactive voice response system, chatbots, customer helpline software, navigation apps etc.
Robotic machines have been there for quite long and the field robotics have witnessed continuous improvement and numerous inventions and innovations over the years. These machines have made our lives a lot easier and they have been performing such tasks which are humanly not possible. With help of robots we have been able to achieve impossible things and explore unimaginable territories like deep sea levels and even outside of our own planet, like the surface of planet Mars.
Artificial Intelligence in Robotics
The next level of innovation in the field of robotics is making intelligent humanoid robots that can think and take decision on their own. Such capabilities are possible by introducing artificial intelligence to robots and the field of robotics have already started adopting the capabilities of artificial intelligence and machine learning.
With the technological advancement in machine learning algorithms, robotic machines are able to learn in a supervised learning environment wherein the learning is done through large amount of structured data. Such type of learning makes decision making easier for machines as they learn to react on certain set patterns and situations.
Scientist and researcher are also working to make truly autonomous humanoid robots and machines which can learn directly from surrounding environment and respond on real time basis by taking decisions themselves. This form of artificial intelligence requires processing of very large amount of unstructured data which is now possible with development of deep learning algorithms, that are capable of handling unsupervised learning of machines. This type of learning provides a true sense of autonomy to robots and machines and they learn to take decisions and improvise on their own.
Autonomous humanoid robots can now learn to understand and behave in the same way as humans do. They have got vision and they can also listen to human beings. With the development in the field of natural language procession or NLP, robots are now learning to understand natural languages spoken and they can also understand human emotions through facial recognition based on which they can respond in similar way.
Few examples of real life autonomous humanoid robots are ASIMO developed by Honda, ATLAS developed by Boston Dynamics and Sophia developed by Hanson Robotics.