Browse Definitions :
Definition

robotics

What is robotics?

Robotics is a branch of engineering that involves the conception, design, manufacture and operation of robots. The objective of the robotics field is to create intelligent machines that can assist humans in a variety of ways.

Robotics can take on a number of forms. A robot may resemble a human, or it may be in the form of a robotic application, such as robotic process automation (RPA), which simulates how humans engage with software to perform repetitive, rules-based tasks.

While the field of robotics and exploration of the potential uses and functionality of robots have grown substantially in the 20th century, the idea is certainly not a new one.

types of robots
Rethink Robotics smart robot Baxter

The early history of robotics

The term robotics is an extension of the word robot. One of its first uses came from Czech writer Karel Čapek, who used the word in his play, Rossum's Universal Robots, in 1920.

However, it is science fiction author Isaac Asimov who has been given credit for being the first person to use the term in the 1940s by Oxford English Dictionary.

In Asimov's story, he suggested three principles to guide the behavior of autonomous robots and smart machines.

Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics have survived to the present:

  1. Robots must never harm human beings.
  2. Robots must follow instructions from humans without violating rule 1.
  3. Robots must protect themselves without violating the other rules.

However, it wasn't until a couple of decades later in 1961 -- based on designs from the '50s -- that the first programmable robot, Unimate, was created to move scalding metal pieces from a die-cast machine.

types of robots
There are many different kinds of robots.

Robotics applications

Today, industrial robots, as well as many other types of robots, are used to perform repetitive tasks. They may take the form of a robotic arm, robotic exoskeleton or traditional humanoid robots.

Industrial robots and robot arms are used by manufacturers and warehouses, such as those owned by Amazon, Devol, Best Buy and more.

To function, a combination of computer programming and algorithms, a remotely controlled manipulator, actuators, control systems -- action, processing and perception -- real-time sensors and an element of automation helps to inform what a robot or robotic system does.

Some additional applications for robotics are the following:

Machine learning in robotics

Machine learning and robotics intersect in a field known as robot learning. Robot learning is the study of techniques that enable a robot to acquire new knowledge or skills through machine learning algorithms.

Some applications that have been explored by robot learning include grasping objects, object categorization and even linguistic interaction with a human peer. Learning can happen through self-exploration or via guidance from a human operator.

To learn, intelligent robots must accumulate facts through human input or sensors. Then, the robot's processing unit will compare the newly acquired data to previously stored information and predict the best course of action based on the data it has acquired.

However, it's important to understand that a robot can only solve problems that it is built to solve. It does not have general analytical abilities.

benefits of robotic process automation (RPA)
Robotic process automation automates repetitive and rules-based tasks that rely on digital information.

The pros and cons of robotics

Robotic systems are coveted in many industries because they can increase accuracy, reduce cost and increase safety for human beings.

In fact, safety is arguably one of robotics' greatest benefits, as many dangerous or unhealthy environments no longer require the human element. Examples include the nuclear industry, space, defense, maintenance and more.

robotics pros and cons
A few of the benefits and drawbacks of robotics

With robots or robotic systems, workers can avoid exposure to hazardous chemicals and even limit psychosocial and ergonomic health risks. However, despite these benefits, there are several drawbacks to robotics as well.

There are certain tasks that are simply better suited for humans -- for example, those jobs that require creativity, adaptability and critical decision-making skills.

Also see: bot, software robot, uncanny valley, telepresence robot, mobile robot, social robot, probabilistic robotics, developmental robotics, smart robot and robot economy.

This was last updated in September 2021

Continue Reading About robotics

Networking
  • network traffic

    Network traffic is the amount of data that moves across a network during any given time.

  • dynamic and static

    In general, dynamic means 'energetic, capable of action and/or change, or forceful,' while static means 'stationary or fixed.'

  • MAC address (media access control address)

    A MAC address (media access control address) is a 12-digit hexadecimal number assigned to each device connected to the network.

Security
  • Evil Corp

    Evil Corp is an international cybercrime network that uses malicious software to steal money from victims' bank accounts and to ...

  • Trojan horse

    In computing, a Trojan horse is a program downloaded and installed on a computer that appears harmless, but is, in fact, ...

  • quantum key distribution (QKD)

    Quantum key distribution (QKD) is a secure communication method for exchanging encryption keys only known between shared parties.

CIO
  • green IT (green information technology)

    Green IT (green information technology) is the practice of creating and using environmentally sustainable computing.

  • benchmark

    A benchmark is a standard or point of reference people can use to measure something else.

  • spatial computing

    Spatial computing broadly characterizes the processes and tools used to capture, process and interact with 3D data.

HRSoftware
  • learning experience platform (LXP)

    A learning experience platform (LXP) is an AI-driven peer learning experience platform delivered using software as a service (...

  • talent acquisition

    Talent acquisition is the strategic process employers use to analyze their long-term talent needs in the context of business ...

  • employee retention

    Employee retention is the organizational goal of keeping productive and talented workers and reducing turnover by fostering a ...

Customer Experience
  • BOPIS (buy online, pick up in-store)

    BOPIS (buy online, pick up in-store) is a business model that allows consumers to shop and place orders online and then pick up ...

  • real-time analytics

    Real-time analytics is the use of data and related resources for analysis as soon as it enters the system.

  • database marketing

    Database marketing is a systematic approach to the gathering, consolidation and processing of consumer data.

Close