Robotic technology can be found in clocks, remote control vehicles, automobile computers, Aibo, factory robotic arms, self-guided rovers, service bots like ASIMO, robotic toys like AIBO or Robo-Raptor and a CNC milling machine. To be considered a “robot,” the specimen must be able to interact with its environment and physically do something. Most recently, robots are being used in surgery, disaster recovery and firefighting.
Historically, ancient people believed in the existence of a humanoid robot species. The Greek god Hephaestus was thought to have created mechanical servants to help him build temples. Furthermore, the Jewish people thought that clay golems could come to life and the Norse believed that clay giants could awaken. In 4th Century BC, Greek mathematicians Archytas of Tarentum proposed that he could create a steam-powered bird known as “The Pigeon.” Additionally, Hero of Alexandria (10-70 AD) devised automated machinery powered by air pressure and steam.
In 1088, Su Song developed the first clock tower that was built using mechanical figurines and audible chimes. In 1206, the first humanoid robot was created by Al-Jazari, a Muslim inventor who wished to entertain royal guests with automated musicians who played on a boat in a lake. Al-Jazari was already well-known for constructing everything from kitchen appliances and other astounding robotic machines.
There are many different ways to think about robotic technology. For instance, do we want an artificial being to look like a human or an unmistakable nuts-and-bolts prototype? Should they go to work at the plant or in our own homes? Should they think for themselves or be simply capable of pre-programmed simplified tasks?
There are “soft robots,” which have silicone bodies and flexible actuators that behave almost human-like. There are “swarm robots” that behave like bees or ants, cooperating together to find something, clean, explore space or spy. “Haptic interface robots” allow users to interact with virtual simulation environments. Engineers are always coming up with new designs and uses for automation robotics.
Robotic technology is continually progressing. Early prototypes used steam, water or air, while new robotic prototypes use actuators, electric DC motors and air muscles. To study robotics engineering, interested students can attend Worcester Polytechnic Institute, which is the only school that offers a Bachelor of Science in Robotics Engineering.
Other schools have graduate programs based on robotics automation, including Carnegie Mellon University, MIT, UPENN and UCLA. To increase early interest in this field, programs like FIRST Robotics were devised to encourage students as young as six to look to math, science and technology fields for hobbies.