ROBOTS: What is the first thing that comes to the mind for most of us? A human-looking figure made of metal parts, having a few LEDs here and there and making strange noises while moving. Some of us might be influenced by movies, anime, books and comics and may think that robots would revolt one-day taking control of the planet and subjugate the human civilization. And how many of you think, there is a bad T1000 who has come from the future and is hiding amidst us or the NS-5 Sonny can harm you and control all the other robots.
Well, nothing of that sort is going to happen as there are a lot of misconceptions about Robots and that are spread by Science Fiction movies and books. The real-world robots are not as advanced as shown in the films and are governed by more than three laws of Robotics. The three laws of Robotics, as stated by Isaac Asimov, one of the greatest sci-fi writers ever, are:
First Law: A robot may not injure a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
Second Law: A robot must obey orders given by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
Third Law: A robot must protect its existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
Now that if you feel safer, let us travel through the world of Robotics and understand its concepts and functions from the viewpoint of a novice. Before I jump to the Robotics part, I would love to give a brief description of the technologies used with Robotics. Thereafter I will move to the current status and the future, along with the advantages and disadvantages and finally moving to the best books and movies that you could read and watch about robots.
Note: I have mentioned the topics that I am going to discuss in this blog below. You can either follow the complete journey or skip stages by clicking any title you would like to read.
What Is A Robot?
A Robot is any machine that can be programmed by a computer to run a series of complex actions without human help. Features like size, shape, color etc. do not matter when it comes to being a Robot; instead, any machine that can carry out a scheduled task is classified as Robot. These machines may or may not be in human form.
The word robot comes from the Czech word, robota, which means Forced Labour. And, this is true as the sole purpose of inventing Robots is so that it can help humans to carry out tasks that are beyond the scope of humans like working in high temperatures with hazardous substances or carry out repeated tasks which require time and effort as Robots are known to be error-free.
Human looking Robots are one subset of Robots that are more commonly seen in Sci-Fi Movies and Books and are not very common. The real world of Robots comprises of machines that can perform a task repeatedly, in stressful situations, without emotions and at the same time achieving 100% accuracy. Some examples of Robots in the real world are Automatic car washes, Vending Machines, remote control cars and the most commonly used ATMs. So, the next time you withdraw cash from an ATM, remember it is a Robot that is placed instead of the bank cashier to make things easier and that works 24/7. Some of the most famous and successful creations in the field of Robotics are:
- Honda’s ASIMO. Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility is a machine that was designed to act as a house helper to help the elderly in the house.
- NASA’s Mars Rover. Humans can’t explore Mars due to the planet’s environment, but nothing can stop NASA’s Robot from exploring and sending pictures of the red planet.
- Mayfield’s Kuri. A Robot companion to add a spark to life at any home. It resembles the famous Disney robot character Wall-E and can answer questions and recognizes people.
- Sony’s AIBO. Sony decided to go one step further and created a robotic pet in the shape of a dog which was fun to play with and had no limitations of a real dog.
- Sophia. Hanson’s Sophia is one of the most intelligent Robot based on Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning.
Other terms have been often used with or in place of Robots but have a completely different meaning. Some of those terms are:
Cyborg. You may have heard of this word mostly in Sci-Fi movies and books. This means a Cybernetic Organism or a living thing that has both organic (real) and bio-mechatronic (artificial) body parts. In simple words, if a person or animal has some sort of artificial limb or body part, then he/she can be called a Cyborg. For example, people with an artificial heart valve or those carrying oxygen tanks with them. They are people who are surviving on machines and need help and care and are not some Humanoid robots destined to wipe out humanity as portrayed in Sci-Fi Movies.
Android. Before Android was Google’s Operating System in smartphones, it was used to denote those robots that resembled humans and were made from flesh-like material. Androids were only available in Science Fiction movies and books for a long time, but with the recent developments in science, these Humanoid Robots are now a reality.
What Is Robotics?
Robotics is a branch of technology that includes the concept, design, construct, operate and apply the Robot technology to out day to day life. It also includes developing software that enables to control, provides feedback through sensors and processes information in these machines. Robotics is a part of the engineering courses we have today like computer science, electronics, mechatronics, nanotechnology and finally bioengineering.
The main goal of Robotics is to create machines that can assist in doing tasks that are difficult to perform or dangerous. These machines can also help in automating repeated tasks to save time and effort and replicating human actions in many situations. Dangerous situations like inspection of radioactive materials, bomb deactivation, space travel, in-depth underwater explorations, etc. are some of the tasks that involve risk of life and can be effortlessly done by Robots. The study of Robotics has gained popularity due to the exponential increase in the demand of the Robots and is considered as a disruptive technology for the following reasons:
Manufacturing Process. Robots are used to speed up tasks and reduce errors in the manufacturing process where tasks are divided into many segments, like in automobile manufacturing and food processing and packaging.
Exploring. Robots have been used many times by the army to explore unknown terrain, and this saves human lives if causalities occur.
Food Industry.Many farmers have deployed huge machines controlled by Robots to carry out farming tasks like planting, harvesting, sorting and packing.
Exoskeletons. There are Robots which are designed as suits and wearable machines and are used to provide protection and increase strength during some specific tasks.
Warehousing. Robots are essential in the warehousing industry to store goods and transport them when needed.
Surveillance. Flying Robots or Drones are used in search and rescue operations to help identify the number and location of the survivors.
Accessibility. Robots are proven to be useful for people who are handicapped and disabled.
Replacement. Any task which has even a single degree of risk can be carried out by a Robot instead of Humans, and that includes doing stunts in movies as well.
What Is Artificial Intelligence?
Artificial Intelligence is the backbone of the concept of Robotics. Without AI, you would not have a Robot but just a machine that can be turned on to carry out a specific task and then turned off. It is the concept of AI that make conventional machines into smart machines that can perform tasks that generally would not be possible with human intervention. There are four traditional approaches to Artificial Intelligence:
- Thinking humanly
- Thinking rationally
- Acting humanly
- Acting rationally
Any brink of intelligence that is not human or animal is considered as Artificial Intelligence, and this term is used to describe a decision taken by a machine that mimics human intelligence. And this decision was not something that was fed into the machine through a set of programming or coding languages but a self-development by the machine. The most common examples of AI you see around you is computer games like Chess, where you play against the computer’s intelligence which does not know of your next move and decides its next move after you have played. Other instances of AI in the future will be auto driven cars and military simulations.
What Is Machine Learning?
As the name suggests, Machine Learning refers to the knowledge gained by a machine automatically. If you were to program a machine via coding and software, then it was something that you were doing, and your machine would never be able to think out of limited scope. However, the concept of machine learning deals with the fact that a large amount of data is fed into the machine which is then analyzed on various factors and several patterns are observed, and the decision is taken on that basis by a machine.
For a computer or machine to begin machine learning, it needs access to a large amount of data based on which it would be able to pull out the most appropriate and relevant results. Machine Learning techniques aim to let the computers and other machines to be able to make decisions as per a given situation and break free from the current robotic role and parameters they have. This is done through complex algorithms that almost mimic a normal human being and the decision he/she would take using his/her analytical and logical reasoning skill.
What Is The Internet Of Things?
Internet of Things or IoT for short is the collective name for the technology and the devices that are interconnected on one network. In more simple words, all the smart devices you own today fall into the IoT category, although they might not be used as they are intended to. Earlier you could categorize a device into manual or digital (automatic) and now that categorization has been extended to the devices which can be connected to the internet and can Send/Receive data.
IoT is only possible through the availability of sensors and connectivity through the internet. If you can control your Air Conditioner or washing machine at home while sitting in an office, then your devices are a part of the IoT world. All devices today other than your computers and smartphones are being developed, keeping IoT in mind. As a result, you would find that even the coffee maker in your kitchen has sensors and processors that can receive instructions while you are travelling back to home from work and serve you a fresh cup of hot coffee as you enter your house. Soon, there would be no device that you use that would not be a part of the IoT network worldwide.
What is Augmented Reality?
Augmented Reality or AR for short stands for an environment which is real and unreal both at the same time. In simple words, you see the real world through an object like a lens or your camera’s phone and see more than that is there and visual to naked eyes. The best example is the game Pokémon Go where you can use your smartphone’s camera and saw the street outside your home as it is but also saw a Pokémon character on the same street. This is Augmented Reality, and as this technology is being improved, you would be able to do more than just an animated character on the screen. The further changes suggest people using Augmented Reality will be able to touch (Haptic), feel pressure or pain (Somatosensory), hear (Auditory) and even smell (olfactory) objects that are not present in front of them.
Some terms relate or are similar to Augmented reality:
- Virtual reality (VR) is a technology that takes you on a ride into the virtual world and is so realistic that you feel that you are there. It is on a different level as compared to 3D as the screen moves left-right, top-bottom as you move your eyes and head. However, in a 3D movie, if you turn your head sideways, you will stop seeing what is on the screen. VR is possible through special devices like Oculus Rift, Google Cardboard and other devices that can make us reach anywhere, even on Mars.
- Mixed Reality or MR combines the real world and virtual world taking the best of AR and MR. So far, the only device that can provide a real experience of both the technologies is Microsoft’s HoloLens.
- Extended Reality (XR) is not a technology. Still, it refers to a combination of all technologies and sciences that create an experience that includes a difference in how the real world looks like. It includes Mixed Reality along with Augmented and Virtual reality as well.
What Is The Connection Between Robotics, AI, ML, IoT & AR?
If you want to make a complete Robot, then you will have to inculcate different technologies into one machine to make it perfect. Let us consider a few other branches that work in hand with Robotics:
Robotics & Artificial Intelligence. With Artificial Intelligence, a Robot can think what to do in a given situation and transforms from a simple machine to a complicated one. Without AI, a Robot will only perform predetermined actions and provide no or vague response in a situation that has not been programmed into its memory. In other words, AI provides a sort of sense to determine and calculate the result of the next action they perform. There are three types of AI used with Robotics today:
- Weak Artificial Intelligence – used with software robots like Siri and Alexa.
- Strong Artificial Intelligence – Used with medium robots like Self Driving cars and robotic surgeons.
- Specialized Artificial Intelligence – Used with Industrial Robots employed in the manufacturing process.
Robotics & Machine Learning. Machine Learning is that branch of science which empowers a machine to collect and analyze data. Based on this analyzed data, the Robot will be able to make relevant decisions and perform actions that are beyond its scope.
Robotics &Internet of Things. A Robot has to be connected to the internet via a secured network to receive instructions and updates. IoT defines an environment where all smart devices are connected along with your Robot, and it makes easy for you to carry out repeated and unimportant tasks. The connection between these two branches has given rise to a new field of science known as IoT or Internet of Robotic Things. Under this field, all the smart devices available in a given area, monitor the occurring events and fuse all the data connection and make decisions on the next course of action to regulate objects in the real world.
Robotics & Augmented Reality. With AR feature inculcated, a Robot can use the complex algorithms along with Augmented Reality and predict as well as display certain futuristic events. Also, Robots with AR capabilities can become better coworkers with humans and work on the same level. This can also help Flying Robots or Drones to plan a flight path with navigation waypoints that will help determine the Robot’s current position and future destinations.
What Are The Advantages Of Robots?
There are many advantages of using robots, and even I write an individual blog highlighting their benefits, I am sure to miss a few of them. Here are the best of the advantages of robots:
- Robots can perform a different variety of tasks and applications that usually require skill and training in humans.
- Precision in Robots is always more as compared to Humans, and there is no chance of error.
- Robots display consistency in work, and there are no human emotions involved, like getting bored and social needs and do not require motivation.
- The production quantity and quality increases making way for more profit as Robots work faster than humans.
- Robots can work 24/7 provided the machinery remains cooled and do not require vacations or leaves as they can feel tired or get sick.
- Robots can work in any environment and do not need special conditions or suits to perform tasks. That is, they are most suited while automobile manufacturing and other processes where metals are welded at higher temperatures.
- Robots can lift heavy loads and work in hazardous and toxic environments, something that is impossible for humans.
- Robots can operate in tiny and delicate places and are used by doctors to perform complicated surgeries.
- Robots do not have egos, raise their voices, conduct strikes or disrupt the factory work due to feelings and emotions.
- If a Robot malfunctions, then there are no medical claims or lawsuits, and the company must either repair the robot or replace it by another.
What are the Disadvantages of Robots?
After discussing the advantages, I am sure that you must be convinced about deploying Robots to get the work done. However, Pros and Cons are like two sides of a coin, and if something has advantages, then it is bound to have certain disadvantages too. The limitations of Robots include:
- Deploying Robots is a costly affair and requires enormous capital to purchase and implement them. Even though Robots demand low maintenance but the cost of maintaining them is very high.
- The costs for training then and having appropriate software created are difficult and high. People in charge of maintaining the Robots would have to regularly update them with the latest improvements in the Robot hardware and software features.
- Robots can work according to a specific set of instructions and will not recognize any process anomalies as a human would.
- Robots lack flexibility as humans, and if you want to change the task of the Robot, then you need to reprogram it whereas asking a human to do something else, and it would hardly take seconds to perform a different task.
- There are more chances of an automated process to breakdown and fail. Analyzing the entire process will take a lot of time and might even require process redesign, which is not so in the case of human workers. The result can be that the task was not completed in due time and create a loss for the manufacturer.
- Robots cannot do creative jobs like designing or planning, and this has to be done by humans as Robots lack the most important factor of human life, and that is emotions.
- Robots will never be able to carry out a task which requires emotions rather than algorithmic calculations, especially like Trading Systems where decisions are taken on hunches and gut feelings.
- Robots employed as house helpers will be able to all the work accurately and fast, and this will result in humans becoming lazy and dumb over time as they would depend on robots for everything. This would also develop complicated health issues being exposed to Robotic radiation for most of the time and lying around doing nothing.
- Robots are made of different types of metals, some of which are hazardous to nature. Currently, we are facing issues to dump metallic wastes and batteries, and the issue will become tenfold when it comes to dropping old and malfunctioning robots.
- The biggest disadvantage of Robots is that they would replace a large number of human workers and this will lead to Unemployment, and it will cause a rise in criminal activities.
An Extraordinary Robot In The 21st Century
There is one Humanoid Robot that has been making news lately, and it has been christened as Sophia, which is Greek for wisdom and is mentioned in the Bible as God’s Wisdom. Strange isn’t it for this Robot Sophia is one of the most intelligent machines on the planet.
Sophia was developed by Hanson Robotics in the year 2016 in Hong Kong. It was created by David Hanson, who designed the robot in the image of his wife and the late actress Audrey Hepburn. Many claims that Sophia resembles the wise Egyptian Queen Nefertiti who related to Moses and belonged to one of the 12 tribes of Israel. According to Hanson, Sophia is utterly laden with top-class features like Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Visual Data Processing and Facial recognition. Apart from that, Sophia can imitate human gestures and make simple conversations owing to Speech to Text technology from Google and can analyze conversations to improve responses in future.
Currently, Sophia has travelled to more than 25 countries and has met many celebrities, including Will Smith and Jimmy Fallon. Sophia has also been granted honorary citizenship by the Saudi government and was also named “Innovation Champion” by the United Nations Development Program. However, with all the fame and highlights, there was one incident when it stated to its creator that it would destroy Humans. Now that does give a chill through your spine, doesn’t it? Hanson reported that it was a small glitch and it has been rectified.
For more news and updates on Sophia, visit her official website.
Robotics: From Past to Present
Robot history is not as long as humans but has gone through exciting events. Here are some notable essential points:
400BC – Greek Mathematician Archytas created a mechanical bird which was powered by steam.
1495 – Leonardo Da Vinci sketched a Humanoid Robot.
1913 – Henry Ford installed a conveyor belt to reduce the time of Model T from 12 hours to 83 minutes.
1921 – The first book about Robots was published by Karel Carek. It was called Rossum’s Universal Robots, and this book introduced the word Robot for a mechanical machine capable of doing extraordinary things.
1926 – The first robot movie, Metropolis, was released in Hollywood.
1927 – The first Humanoid Robot was created by Ron Wensleyand was named as Herbert Televox. It could receive telephone calls and control the simple process by operating switches.
1937 – The second Robot was created by Joseph Barnet ten years later and was called Elektro, the moto-man. It could walk, talk, count and smoke.
1941 – The great Sci-Fi writer Isaac Asimov wrote the first short story on Robots titled as Liar and introduced the three laws of Robotics.
1950 – Turing’s test was developed by Alan Turing, which is used until today to test Robots and AI Bots.
1961 – The first digitally operated and programmable Robot, Unimate was developed and installed in the General Motors Assembly lines to stimulate faster and risk-free production of vehicles.
1977 – Star Wars was released displaying a new world of Robots.
1996 – IBM created a computer with Artificial Intelligence capabilities that defeated world chess champion, Garry Kasparov.
2000 – Honda builds ASIMO, the most advanced robot of that time, which changed the definition of Robotics.
2016 – Hanson Robotics Introduce Sophia, which appears to be an almost human Robot.
2020 – The International Federation of Robotics (IFR) has predicted 3 million industrial robots in use.
For a detailed history of Robots, refer to this link.
Best Movies To Watch On Robots
The Robot Books list ended with the Terminator, and the Robot Movies list will begin with it.
|No||Name of the Movie||Year||Robot Character||One Liner Comment|
|1||Terminator Series||1984||Positive & Negative||If you haven’t seen it, then you have missed a lot.|
|2||Blade Runner||1982||Negative||Harrison Ford’s masterpiece on Robots|
|3||The Matrix Trilogy||1999||Negative||Humans are entirely controlled by Robots until one man rises and frees others.|
|4||Robocop||1987||Positive||A good Police robot is fighting crime.|
|5||Artificial Intelligence||2001||Positive||A small boy who is a Robot tries to become human.|
|6||Ghost in the Shell||1995||Positive||A Japanese anime based fantasy|
|7||Transformers||2007||Positive & Negative||Good Robots vs Bad Robots that can turn into Super Cars.|
|8||I, Robot||2004||Positive & Negative||Will Smith’s teams up with one good Robot fighting against an army of bad ones.|
|9||Bicentennial Man||1999||Positive||Robin Williams is cyborg Butler who has human-like feelings and qualities|
|10||Cyborg||1989||Negative||Jean Claude Van Damme’s action masterpiece about fighting evil cyborgs.|
|11||Wall –E||2008||Cute||Disney’s anime on a small waste-collecting Robot carrying out a critical mission|
|12||The Iron Giant||1999||Positive||The animated classic of a friendship between a small boy and a giant robot from outer space.|
|13||Transcendence||2014||Negative||A Sci-Fi is starring Johnny Depp about loading consciousness into a computer.|
|14||West World||1973||Positive & Negative||Robotic men and women, good and bad, action and romance|
|15||Chappie||2015||Positive||The story about a kind Robot|
|16||Her||2013||Positive||A man falls in love with a Robot|
|17||Singularity||2017||Negative||A robot created to end all wars and destruction on the planet realizes that Humans are the biggest threat.|
|18||Passengers||2016||Positive||Futuristic Space Adventure|
|19||Tomorrowland||2015||Positive & Negative||Adventure in an unexplored dimension|
|20||Metropolis||1927||Negative||The First Classic movie on Robots|
Best Novels To Read On Robots
Note that the covers join to display an image of the planet Trantor in the year 12,058.
If you are a Science Fiction fan, then you probably have read a lot of books that contain Robot characters and stories. One of the greatest Sci-Fi authors was Isaac Asimov, who had written over 50 books in the 1950s &60s when the world was not technologically advanced as it is now. Nevertheless, here are the best Sci-Fi novels about Robots:
|No||Name of the Book||Year||Author||One Liner Description|
|1951||Isaac Asimov||A series of 10 books about everything you can imagine on Aliens, Robots, Space travel, Future and everything else.|
|1950||Isaac Asimov||The original version of Will Smith’s Movie I Robot.|
|3||Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?||1968||Philip K. Dick||Harrison Ford’s Blade Runner Movie|
|4||Neuromancer||1984||William Gibson||This book won science fiction’s triple crown (the Hugo, Nebula, and Philip K. Dick awards)|
|5||Rossum’s Universal Robots.||1920||Karel Capek||A robot rebellion leads to the end of the human race|
|6||The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy||1979||Douglas Adams||Humorous adventure of a Robot after the destruction of the earth.|
|7||DAEMON||2006||Daniel Suarez||A powerful computer application creates havoc after killing its programmer.|
|8||The Caves of Steel||1953||Isaac Asimov||The rise of distrust between Robots and Humans|
|9||A Robot Named Clunk||2011||Simon Haynes||A human and a Robot team up and take challenging missions|
|10||Bone Machine||2016||CN James||A robot is under investigation as it killed a human|
|11||Robota||2003||Doug Chiang||Humans versus ‘way too powerful’ Robots|
|12||2001: A Space Odyssey||1968||Arthur C. Clake||Robotic Spaceship ventures out in the Space|
|13||Cyborg||1972||Martin Caidin||TV series: The Six Million Dollar Man|
|14||Excession||1996||Iain M. Banks||Humans, Aliens and Robots|
|15||Ilium||2003||Dan Simmons||Humans, Robots & Mars|
|16||How to Survive a Robot Uprising||2005||Daniel H. Wilson||A guide on different types of Robots from an Author who has done a PhD in Robotics.|
|17||Robopocalypse||2011||Daniel H. Wilson||A tale about Robot uprising|
|18||The Alchemy of Stone||2008||Ekaterina Sedia||A tale of a power struggle between Mechanics and Alchemists|
|19||Soul of a Robot||1974||Barrington J. Bayley||A funny story about Robot with a Soul|
|20||The Terminator||1985||Randall Frakes||The most famous Robot movie.|
For a complete list of Asimov’s books refer to this link.
Robotics: The Final Verdict
Robotics is a very vast topic, something that cannot be entirely covered in one go. It is an interesting and fascinating topic at the same time, and I hope this blog provided new and useful information about Robots and their uses, limitation, benefits, movies, books etc.I think it is time for a break for now and I will move out from the world of Robotics with the promise of a second chapter that will go into more technical details about the classification of Robots into different types and explore more.
Meanwhile please use the comments section to tell me how did you find this article and of course your suggestions and any specific topic you would like to know from the Robo-Universe.