The Basics of Robotics

The Basics of Robotics

The Basics of Robotics

Robotics has captured my attention for quite some time now. I try to keep discovering new things about robotics from school, friends, and the internet, and they leave me in awe about how vast this technology is.  Although I am still in the initial levels of learning about this science, I would like to share some basics of robotics that I have learned so far.

What is a Robot

A robot is a reprogrammable machine that can complete various tasks either automatically or is remotely controlled. It can be manipulated through various computer-based programs that can be changed as per human will.  The science that studies and invents robots is known as Robotics.

History of Robots

I used to think, until recently, that robots were modern machines. Don’t be surprised if you think so too! I was astonished to know that the origin of robotics has a much earlier date. The term Robot was first used by a Czech writer Karel Capek in one of his plays, for a character that was replaced by human-like machines; it was much later in 1940 that the first robot was conceptualized by Isaac Asimov. He also wrote the first laws of robotics which became the foundation for robotics as it is today.

These laws are as follows:

  1. A robot must not cause an injury to a human or allow a human to come to harm because of its inaction.
  2. A robot must obey the orders given to it by humans except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as it does not come into conflict with the First and Second Laws.

Parts of a Robot

Robots can be made from a variety of materials including metals and plastics. Most robots are composed of 3 main parts:

Sensors: Sensors collect information like size, shape, distance, and direction about the robot’s work environment.  We are familiar with many sensors that are incorporated into robots such as cameras, thermometer, barometer, and buttons. More complex sensors include supersonic sensors, magnetometers, accelerometers, and Light Detection and Ranging sensors (LIDAR).

Effectors: Effectors are parts of a robot that do the work. These parts include speakers, motors, pistons, grippers, wheels, and gears that make the robot speak, change direction, grab, move, and lift. Pneumatics, hydraulics, and electricity are used to make these parts work.

Controllers: A controller is a system inside the robot that determines its tasks and behavior. There are two kinds of control systems in robots

  • Pre-programmed Robots: These robots are pre-programmed to repeat the same actions over and over. They can gather limited sensory information. 
  •  Autonomous Robots: These robots are able to work in complex environments. They have sensors that help them to detect and send the information to their drives which in turn sends signals to the other parts of the robots to respond accordingly. 

All of these parts work together to control the operation of a robot.

What are the Different Types of Robots

Once I became interested in robotics, I realized that they are all around. Robots have made an important place in our lives and they have earned every bit of it.  We are surrounded by robots in our life and I am not talking about humanoids (robots that look like humans) here. Robotic vacuum cleaners, medical robots, and drones are some of the robots that we are well-acquainted with. There are many kinds of robots according to their configurations and applications. Let me simplify the different types of robots for you. 

Classification of Robots on the Basis of Circuits

Every robot has a limitation on performing tasks. We can identify robots based on their level of performance.

Simple Robots: These robots consist of simple circuits and are developed to increase and aid human potential.

Mid-level Robots: These robots can only be programmed once at the time of manufacturing. They can perform difficult levels of tasks as compared to simple robots.

Complex Robots: These robots can be reprogrammed according to the tasks. They contain complex circuits and are the most expensive kind of robots.

Classification of Robots Based on Kinematics (Locomotion)

  1. Cartesian Robots: Cartesian robots have three axes that are mounted perpendicular to each other. They can only move in straight lines. 
  2. Cylindrical Robots: Cylindrical robots have three axes for movements. They can rotate, elevate, and reach.
  3. SCARA Robots: Selective Compliance Arm for Robotic Assembly or SCARA robots have a base motor that controls all other motors. They are mostly used for assembly purposes in industries.
  4. Articulated Robots: Articulated robots can have simple two-jointed structures to ones up to 10-or-more coordinated joints. They are mostly powered by electric motors.
  5. Spherical Robots: Spherical robots are a hybrid between cylindrical robots and Cartesian robots. It is placed inside a spherical ball and moves with the help of an internal driving unit (IDU). 

Types of Robots on the Basis of Applications

  • Medical Robots
  • Military Robots
  • Space Robots
  • Industrial Robots
  • Domestic Robots
  • Service Robots
  • Entertainment Robots
  • Humanoids

Unlike in movies like the Terminator or Wall-E, robots cannot think, have emotions, or make decisions.  They are only machines made to help us. Artificial intelligence has improved a robot’s capability to process information and to learn. However, they are still controlled by the information and instructions given to them by humans.

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