Robotics is a branch of science and technology that majorly focuses on the design, manufacture, and application of robots. It can also be defined as a branch of computer science and engineering that deals with the creation of robots which are devices that can move and respond to sensory inputs. The field of robotics overlaps with artificial intelligence, mechatronics, nanotechnology, and bioengineering.
These robots produced in this branch of science and technology are machines that can replicate human actions and are used for jobs that are too difficult, impossible or too delicate for humans to handle. Although robots can perform in most aspects of human activities, they are mostly used in very dangerous environments, manufacturing processes, and also places where humans cannot naturally survive.
The concept of robotics can be traced back to classical times, but the people at that time did not have the resources and knowledge to bring the concept of their ideas or thought into life. Thus, research into the functionality and potential uses of robotics did not grow and develop until the 2Oth century when Norbert Weiner formulated the principles of cybernetics and the basics of practical robotics in 1948. Although there were indeed various attempts in ancient times these efforts do not fit into the present definition and meaning of robotics.
An important break-through in robotics did happen in the second half of the 20th century when the first digitally operated robot which was called the ‘Ultimate’ was installed in 1961. It was used to lift hot pieces of metal from die casting machines and stack them. Over the years, various other important improvements were made on the science of robotics and some notable ones among these improvements are listed below.
1. In 1961, the first installed industrial robot was produced by George Devol
2. 1967 to 1972: The first full-scale humanoid robot and the first android was produced by engineers in Waseda University
3. 1973: First industrial robot with six electromechanically driven axes were produced by the KUKA –Robot Group
4. 1974: The world's fastest microcomputer-controlled electric industrial robot was delivered to a small mechanical engineering company in southern Sweden although the design has already been developed in 1972.
5. 1975: A programmable universal manipulation arm was developed by Victor Scheinman.
6. 1978: the first robot programming language was introduced and this allowed robots to be able to handle variations in objects position and shape.
7. 1983: The first multitasking parallel programming language used for robot control was developed by Stevo Bozinovski and Mihail Sestakov.
The events listed above marks the notable development in robotics, they are the foundation on which the present level of robotics was based on and also developed upon.
Isaac Asimov who is credited for being the first person to use the term ‘robotics’ in a short story composed in the 1940s suggested three laws in his stories for which all robots must follow. Asimov’s three laws of robotics as they are often called have survived till the present time as they are still relevant and these laws are;
• Robots must never harm human beings
• Robots must follow instruction from humans without violating rules
• Robots must protect themselves without violating other rules.
Although the science of robotics only gained popularity and massive development in the 20th century, it has one of the greatest positive effects on various aspects of human life. Some of the significance of robotics in different aspects of society is given below.
Farmers have taken advantage of robotics to improve the output on their farms significantly. They can now use robotic harvesters, planters and other robotic machines to carry out various activities on their farms. The invention of robots has greatly reduced the cost of production, improve efficiency on the farm and also help in the maximization of profits. A single robot can now do the work that thousands of people will do and even do the work better. This efficiency of robotics in the long run as led to an increase in the production rate of different countries leading to a high supply of food and a reduction in the price of various consumable.
The medical industry has also benefited greatly from robotics and is now employed in different medical operations such as medical surgeries. The introduction of various robots such as surgical robots and drug dispensing robots helps to reduce the mortality rate among people who are now cared for in a better and more effective environment.
As you might have guessed, robots play a very big role in the manufacturing industries. Accuracy is very important in various types of production and since humans are prone to mistakes, robots are more suited to handle a lot of manufacturing processes since they cannot make mistakes, and they work in perfect time and accuracy.
The idea of running companies without any humans is now very possible. For example, IBM runs a “light off” company in Texas that is completely stacked with the robot making keyboards.
Although robotics might seem like a completely good and perfect idea, here are some disadvantages of robotics in human society.
First of all, the invention of robotics has also led to an increase in unemployment. Robots have now taken the place of humans in farms, manufacturing companies, hospitals and more. The increase in the unemployment level can lead to a reduction in the standard of living of the people in such communities if proper government policies are not implemented to counter this.
Also, robots cannot think, they act based on the instruction that has been imputed into their operating system. Thus, if there is any mistake in this instruction, the computer will continue to replicate and make that mistake until it is completed and these can lead to great loses for manufacturing companies if these mistakes are not noticed quickly.
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