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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Shadow robot hand system

Robotics is the engineering science and technology of robots, and their design, manufacture, application, and structural disposition. Robotics is related to electronics, mechanics, and software.[1] The word robot was introduced to the public by Czech writer Karel Čapek in his play R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots), published in 1920. The term "robotics" was coined by Isaac Asimov in his 1941 science fiction short-story "Liar!"[2]



Stories of artificial helpers and companions and attempts to create them have a long history, but fully autonomous machines only appeared in the 20th century. The first digitally operated and programmable robot, the Unimate, was installed in 1961 to lift hot pieces of metal from a die casting machine and stack them. Today, commercial and industrial robots are in widespread use performing jobs more cheaply or more accurately and reliably than humans. They are also employed in jobs which are too dirty, dangerous, or dull to be suitable for humans. Robots are widely used in manufacturing, assembly, and packing; transport; earth and space exploration; surgery; weaponry; laboratory research; safety; and mass production of consumer and industrial goods.[3]

Date Significance Robot Name Inventor
First century A.D. and earlier Descriptions of more than 100 machines and automata, including a fire engine, a wind organ, a coin-operated machine, and a steam-powered engine, in Pneumatica and Automata by Heron of Alexandria Ctesibius, Philo of Byzantium, Heron of Alexandria, and others
1495 Designs for a humanoid robot Mechanical knight Leonardo da Vinci
1738 Mechanical duck that was able to eat, flap its wings, and excrete Digesting Duck Jacques de Vaucanson
1800s Japanese mechanical toys that served tea, fired arrows, and painted Karakuri toys Tanaka Hisashige
1898 Nikola Tesla demonstrates first radio-controlled vessel. Teleautomaton Nikola Tesla
1921 First fictional automatons called "robots" appear in the play R.U.R. Rossum's Universal Robots Karel Čapek
1930s Humanoid robot exhibited at the 1939 and 1940 World's Fairs Elektro Westinghouse Electric Corporation
1948 Simple robots exhibiting biological behaviors[4] Elsie and Elmer William Grey Walter
1956 First commercial robot, from the Unimation company founded by George Devol and Joseph Engelberger, based on Devol's patents[5] Unimate George Devol
1961 First installed industrial robot. Unimate George Devol
1963 First palletizing robot[6] Palletizer Fuji Yusoki Kogyo
1973 First industrial robot with six electromechanically driven axes[7] Famulus KUKA Robot Group
1975 Programmable universal manipulation arm, a Unimation product PUMA Victor Scheinman

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word robotics was first used in print by Isaac Asimov, in his science fiction short story "Liar!", published in May 1941 in Astounding Science Fiction. Asimov was unaware that he was coining the term; since the science and technology of electrical devices is electronics, he assumed robotics already referred to the science and technology of robots. However, in some of Asimov's other works, he states that the first use of the word robotics was in his short story Runaround (Astounding Science Fiction, March 1942).[8][9] The word robotics was derived from the word robot, which was introduced to the public by Czech writer Karel Čapek in his play R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots), which premiered in 1921.[10]

Components of robots


The structure of a robot is usually mostly mechanical and can be called a kinematic chain (its functionality being similar to the skeleton of the human body). The chain is formed of links (its bones), actuators (its muscles), and joints which can allow one or more degrees of freedom. Most contemporary robots use open serial chains in which each link connects the one before to the one after it. These robots are called serial robots and often resemble the human arm. Some robots, such as the Stewart platform, use a closed parallel kinematical chain. Other structures, such as those that mimic the mechanical structure of humans, various animals, and insects, are comparatively rare. However, the development and use of such structures in robots is an active area of research (e.g. biomechanics). Robots used as manipulators have an end effector mounted on the last link. This end effector can be anything from a welding device to a mechanical hand used to manipulate the environment.

Power source

At present; mostly (lead-acid) batteries are used, but potential power sources could be:

  • pneumatic (compressed gases)
  • hydraulics (compressed liquids)
  • flywheel energy storage
  • organic garbages (through anaerobic digestion)
  • faeces (human, animal); may be interesting in a military context as feces of small combat groups may be reused for the energy requirements of the robot assistant (see DEKA's project Slingshot stirling engine on how the system would operate)
  • still untested energy sources (e.g. Joe Cell, ...)
  • radioactive source (such as with the proposed Ford car of the '50); to those proposed in movies such as Red Planet


A robot leg powered by Air Muscles

Actuators are like the "muscles" of a robot, the parts which convert stored energy into movement. By far the most popular actuators are electric motors, but there are many others, powered by electricity, chemicals, and compressed air.

  • Motors: The vast majority of robots use electric motors, including brushed and brushless DC on many robots and CNC machines, as their main can specify how much to turn, for more precise control, rather than a "spin and see where it went" approach.
  • Piezo motors: A recent alternative to DC motors are piezo motors or ultrasonic motors. These work on a fundamentally different principle, whereby tiny piezoceramic elements, vibrating many thousands of times per second, cause linear or rotary motion. There are different mechanisms of operation; one type uses the vibration of the piezo elements to walk the motor in a circle or a straight line.[11] Another type uses the piezo elements to cause a nut to vibrate and drive a screw. The advantages of these motors are nanometer resolution, speed, and available force for their size.[12] These motors are already available commercially, and being used on some robots.[13][14]
  • Elastic nanotubes: These are a promising, early-stage experimental technology. The absence of defects in nanotubes enables these filaments to deform elastically by several percent, with energy storage levels of perhaps 10 J/cm3 for metal nanotubes. Human biceps could be replaced with an 8 mm diameter wire of this material. Such compact "muscle" might allow future robots to outrun and outjump humans.[15]



Current robotic and prosthetic hands receive far less tactile information than the human hand. Recent research has developed a tactile sensor array that mimics the mechanical properties and touch receptors of human fingertips.[16],[17] The sensor array is constructed as a rigid core surrounded by conductive fluid contained by an elastomeric skin. Electrodes are mounted on the surface of the rigid core and are connected to an impedance-measuring device within the core. When the artificial skin touches an object the fluid path around the electrodes is deformed, producing impedance changes that map the forces received from the object. The researchers expect that an important function of such artificial fingertips will be adjusting robotic grip on held objects.

In 2009, scientists from several European countries and Israel developed a prosthetic hand, called SmartHand, which functions like a real one, allowing patients to write with it, type on a keyboard, play piano and perform other fine movements. The prosthesis has sensors which enable the patient to sense real feeling in its fingertips.[18]


Robots which must work in the real world require some way to manipulate objects; pick up, modify, destroy, or otherwise have an effect. Thus the 'hands' of a robot are often referred to as end effectors,[19] while the arm is referred to as a manipulator.[20] Most robot arms have replaceable effectors, each allowing them to perform some small range of tasks. Some have a fixed manipulator which cannot be replaced, while a few have one very general purpose manipulator, for example a humanoid hand.

  • Mechanical Grippers: One of the most common effectors is the gripper. In its simplest manifestation it consists of just two fingers which can open and close to pick up and let go of a range of small objects. Fingers can for example be made of a chain with a metal wire run trough it.[21] See Shadow Hand.
  • Vacuum Grippers: Pick and place robots for electronic components and for large objects like car windscreens, will often use very simple vacuum grippers. These are very simple astrictive[22] devices, but can hold very large loads provided the prehension surface is smooth enough to ensure suction.
  • General purpose effectors: Some advanced robots are beginning to use fully humanoid hands, like the Shadow Hand, MANUS,[23] and the Schunk hand.[24] These highly dexterous manipulators, with as many as 20 degrees of freedom and hundreds of tactile sensors.[25]

For the definitive guide to all forms of robot endeffectors, their design, and usage consult the book "Robot Grippers".[26]


Rolling robots

Segway in the Robot museum in Nagoya.

For simplicity, most mobile robots have four wheels. However, some researchers have tried to create more complex wheeled robots, with only one or two wheels.

  • Two-wheeled balancing: While the Segway is not commonly thought of as a robot, it can be thought of as a component of a robot. Several real robots do use a similar dynamic balancing algorithm, and NASA's Robonaut has been mounted on a Segway.[27]
  • Ballbot: Carnegie Mellon University researchers have developed a new type of mobile robot that balances on a ball instead of legs or wheels. "Ballbot" is a self-contained, battery-operated, omnidirectional robot that balances dynamically on a single urethane-coated metal sphere. It weighs 95 pounds and is the approximate height and width of a person. Because of its long, thin shape and ability to maneuver in tight spaces, it has the potential to function better than current robots can in environments with people.[28]
  • Track Robot: Another type of rolling robot is one that has tracks, like NASA's Urban Robot, Urbie.[29]

Walking robots

iCub robot, designed by the RobotCub Consortium

Walking is a difficult and dynamic problem to solve. Several robots have been made which can walk reliably on two legs, however none have yet been made which are as robust as a human. Many other robots have been built that walk on more than two legs, due to these robots being significantly easier to construct.[30][31] Hybrids too have been proposed in movies such as I, Robot, where they walk on 2 legs and switch to 4 (arms+legs) when going to a sprint. Typically, robots on 2 legs can walk well on flat floors, and can occasionally walk up stairs. None can walk over rocky, uneven terrain. Some of the methods which have been tried are:

  • ZMP Technique: The Zero Moment Point (ZMP) is the algorithm used by robots such as Honda's ASIMO. The robot's onboard computer tries to keep the total inertial forces (the combination of earth's gravity and the acceleration and deceleration of walking), exactly opposed by the floor reaction force (the force of the floor pushing back on the robot's foot). In this way, the two forces cancel out, leaving no moment (force causing the robot to rotate and fall over).[32] However, this is not exactly how a human walks, and the difference is quite apparent to human observers, some of whom have pointed out that ASIMO walks as if it needs the lavatory.[33][34][35] ASIMO's walking algorithm is not static, and some dynamic balancing is used (See below). However, it still requires a smooth surface to walk on.
  • Hopping: Several robots, built in the 1980s by Marc Raibert at the MIT Leg Laboratory, successfully demonstrated very dynamic walking. Initially, a robot with only one leg, and a very small foot, could stay upright simply by hopping. The movement is the same as that of a person on a pogo stick. As the robot falls to one side, it would jump slightly in that direction, in order to catch itself.[36] Soon, the algorithm was generalised to two and four legs. A bipedal robot was demonstrated running and even performing somersaults.[37] A quadruped was also demonstrated which could trot, run, pace, and bound.[38] For a full list of these robots, see the MIT Leg Lab Robots page.
  • Dynamic Balancing or controlled falling: A more advanced way for a robot to walk is by using a dynamic balancing algorithm, which is potentially more robust than the Zero Moment Point technique, as it constantly monitors the robot's motion, and places the feet in order to maintain stability.[39] This technique was recently demonstrated by Anybots' Dexter Robot,[40] which is so stable, it can even jump.[41] Another example is the TU Delft Flame.
  • Passive Dynamics: Perhaps the most promising approach utilizes passive dynamics where the momentum of swinging limbs is used for greater efficiency. It has been shown that totally unpowered humanoid mechanisms can walk down a gentle slope, using only gravity to propel themselves. Using this technique, a robot need only supply a small amount of motor power to walk along a flat surface or a little more to walk up a hill. This technique promises to make walking robots at least ten times more efficient than ZMP walkers, like ASIMO.[42][43]

Other methods of locomotion

  • Flying: A modern passenger airliner is essentially a flying robot, with two humans to manage it. The autopilot can control the plane for each stage of the journey, including takeoff, normal flight, and even landing.[44] Other flying robots are uninhabited, and are known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). They can be smaller and lighter without a human pilot onboard, and fly into dangerous territory for military surveillance missions. Some can even fire on targets under command. UAVs are also being developed which can fire on targets automatically, without the need for a command from a human. However these robots are unlikely to see service in the foreseeable future because of the morality issues involved. Other flying robots include cruise missiles, the Entomopter, and the Epson micro helicopter robot. Robots such as the Air Penguin, Air Ray, and Air Jelly have lighter-than-air bodies, propelled by paddles, and guided by sonar.
Two robot snakes. Left one has 64 motors (with 2 degrees of freedom per segment), the right one 10.
  • Snaking: Several snake robots have been successfully developed. Mimicking the way real snakes move, these robots can navigate very confined spaces, meaning they may one day be used to search for people trapped in collapsed buildings.[45] The Japanese ACM-R5 snake robot[46] can even navigate both on land and in water.[47]
  • Skating: A small number of skating robots have been developed, one of which is a multi-mode walking and skating device, Titan VIII. It has four legs, with unpowered wheels, which can either step or roll.[48] Another robot, Plen, can use a miniature skateboard or rollerskates, and skate across a desktop.[49]
  • Climbing: Several different approaches have been used to develop robots that have the ability to climb vertical surfaces. One approach mimicks the movements of a human climber on a wall with protrusions; adjusting the center of mass and moving each limb in turn to gain leverage. An example of this is Capuchin,[50] built by Stanford University, California. Another approach uses the specialised toe pad method of wall-climbing geckoes, which can run on smooth surfaces such as vertical glass. Examples of this approach include Wallbot [51] and Stickybot.[52] A third approach is to mimick the motion of a snake climbing a pole[citation needed].
  • Swimming: It is calculated that when swimming some fish can achieve a propulsive efficiency greater than 90%.[53] Furthermore, they can accelerate and maneuver far better than any man-made boat or submarine, and produce less noise and water disturbance. Therefore, many researchers studying underwater robots would like to copy this type of locomotion.[54] Notable examples are the Essex University Computer Science Robotic Fish,[55] and the Robot Tuna built by the Institute of Field Robotics, to analyze and mathematically model thunniform motion.[56] The Aqua Penguin, designed and built by Festo of Germany, copies the streamlined shape and propulsion by front "flippers" of penguins. Festo have also built the Aqua Ray and Aqua Jelly, which emulate the locomotion of manta ray, and jellyfish, respectively.

Environmental interaction and navigation

RADAR, GPS, LIDAR, ... are all combined to provide proper navigation and obstacle avoidance

Though a significant percentage of robots in commission today are either human controlled, or operate in a static environment, there is an increasing interest in robots that can operate autonomously in a dynamic environment. These robots require some combination of navigation hardware and software in order to traverse their environment. In particular unforeseen events (e.g. people and other obstacles that are not stationary) can cause problems or collisions. Some highly advanced robots as ASIMO, EveR-1, Meinü robot have particularly good robot navigation hardware and software. Also, self-controlled cars, Ernst Dickmanns' driverless car, and the entries in the DARPA Grand Challenge, are capable of sensing the environment well and subsequently making navigational decisions based on this information. Most of these robots employ a GPS navigation device with waypoints, along with radar, sometimes combined with other sensory data such as LIDAR, video cameras, and inertial guidance systems for better navigation between waypoints.

Human-robot interaction

Kismet can produce a range of facial expressions.

If robots are to work effectively in homes and other non-industrial environments, the way they are instructed to perform their jobs, and especially how they will be told to stop will be of critical importance. The people who interact with them may have little or no training in robotics, and so any interface will need to be extremely intuitive. Science fiction authors also typically assume that robots will eventually be capable of communicating with humans through speech, gestures, and facial expressions, rather than a command-line interface. Although speech would be the most natural way for the human to communicate, it is quite unnatural for the robot. It will be quite a while before robots interact as naturally as the fictional C-3PO.

  • Speech recognition: Interpreting the continuous flow of sounds coming from a human (speech recognition), in real time, is a difficult task for a computer, mostly because of the great variability of speech. The same word, spoken by the same person may sound different depending on local acoustics, volume, the previous word, whether or not the speaker has a cold, etc.. It becomes even harder when the speaker has a different accent.[57] Nevertheless, great strides have been made in the field since Davis, Biddulph, and Balashek designed the first "voice input system" which recognized "ten digits spoken by a single user with 100% accuracy" in 1952.[58] Currently, the best systems can recognize continuous, natural speech, up to 160 words per minute, with an accuracy of 95%.[59]
  • Gestures: One can imagine, in the future, explaining to a robot chef how to make a pastry, or asking directions from a robot police officer. On both of these occasions, making hand gestures would aid the verbal descriptions. In the first case, the robot would be recognizing gestures made by the human, and perhaps repeating them for confirmation. In the second case, the robot police officer would gesture to indicate "down the road, then turn right". It is quite likely that gestures will make up a part of the interaction between humans and robots.[60] A great many systems have been developed to recognize human hand gestures.[61]
  • Facial expression: Facial expressions can provide rapid feedback on the progress of a dialog between two humans, and soon it may be able to do the same for humans and robots. Robotic faces have been constructed by Hanson Robotics using their elastic polymer called Frubber, allowing a great amount of facial expressions due to the elasticity of the rubber facial coating and imbedded subsurface motors (servos) to produce the facial expressions.[62] The coating and servos are built on a metal skull. A robot should know how to approach a human, judging by their facial expression and body language. Whether the person is happy, frightened, or crazy-looking affects the type of interaction expected of the robot. Likewise, robots like Kismet and the more recent addition, Nexi[63] can produce a range of facial expressions, allowing it to have meaningful social exchanges with humans.[64]
  • Artificial emotions Artificial emotions can also be imbedded and are composed of a sequence of facial expressions and/or gestures. As can be seen from the movie Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, the programming of these artificial emotions is quite complex and requires a great amount of human observation. To simplify this programming in the movie, presets were created together with a special software program. This decreased the amount of time needed to make the film. These presets could possibly be transferred for use in real-life robots.
  • Personality: Many of the robots of science fiction have a personality, something which may or may not be desirable in the commercial robots of the future.[65] Nevertheless, researchers are trying to create robots which appear to have a personality:[66][67] i.e. they use sounds, facial expressions, and body language to try to convey an internal state, which may be joy, sadness, or fear. One commercial example is Pleo, a toy robot dinosaur, which can exhibit several apparent emotions.[68]


A robot-manipulated marionette, with complex control systems

The mechanical structure of a robot must be controlled to perform tasks. The control of a robot involves three distinct phases - perception, processing, and action (robotic paradigms). Sensors give information about the environment or the robot itself (e.g. the position of its joints or its end effector). This information is then processed to calculate the appropriate signals to the actuators (motors) which move the mechanical.

The processing phase can range in complexity. At a reactive level, it may translate raw sensor information directly into actuator commands. Sensor fusion may first be used to estimate parameters of interest (e.g. the position of the robot's gripper) from noisy sensor data. An immediate task (such as moving the gripper in a certain direction) is inferred from these estimates. Techniques from control theory convert the task into commands that drive the actuators.

At longer time scales or with more sophisticated tasks, the robot may need to build and reason with a "cognitive" model. Cognitive models try to represent the robot, the world, and how they interact. Pattern recognition and computer vision can be used to track objects. Mapping techniques can be used to build maps of the world. Finally, motion planning and other artificial intelligence techniques may be used to figure out how to act. For example, a planner may figure out how to achieve a task without hitting obstacles, falling over, etc.

Autonomy levels

Control systems may also have varying levels of autonomy.

  1. Direct interaction is used for haptic or tele-operated devices, and the human has nearly complete control over the robot's motion.
  2. Operator-assist modes have the operator commanding medium-to-high-level tasks, with the robot automatically figuring out how to achieve them.
  3. An autonomous robot may go for extended periods of time without human interaction. Higher levels of autonomy do not necessarily require more complex cognitive capabilities. For example, robots in assembly plants are completely autonomous, but operate in a fixed pattern.

An other classification takes in account the interaction between human control and the machine motions.

  1. Teleoperation. A human controls each movement, each machine actuator change is specified by the operator.
  2. Supervisory. A human specifies general moves or position changes and the machine decides specific movements of its actuators.
  3. Task-level autonomy. The operator specifies only the task and the robot manages itself to complete it.
  4. Fully autonomy. The machine will create and complete all its tasks without human interaction.

Dynamics and kinematics

The study of motion can be divided into kinematics and dynamics. Direct kinematics refers to the calculation of end effector position, orientation, velocity, and acceleration when the corresponding joint values are known. Inverse kinematics refers to the opposite case in which required joint values are calculated for given end effector values, as done in path planning. Some special aspects of kinematics include handling of redundancy (different possibilities of performing the same movement), collision avoidance, and singularity avoidance. Once all relevant positions, velocities, and accelerations have been calculated using kinematics, methods from the field of dynamics are used to study the effect of forces upon these movements. Direct dynamics refers to the calculation of accelerations in the robot once the applied forces are known. Direct dynamics is used in computer simulations of the robot. Inverse dynamics refers to the calculation of the actuator forces necessary to create a prescribed end effector acceleration. This information can be used to improve the control algorithms of a robot.

In each area mentioned above, researchers strive to develop new concepts and strategies, improve existing ones, and improve the interaction between these areas. To do this, criteria for "optimal" performance and ways to optimize design, structure, and control of robots must be developed and implemented.

Robot research

TOPIO, a robot developed by TOSY that can play ping-pong.[69]

Much of the research in robotics focuses not on specific industrial tasks, but on investigations into new types of robots, alternative ways to think about or design robots, and new ways to manufacture them but other investigations, such as MIT's cyberflora project, are almost wholly academic.

A first particular new innovation in robot design is the opensourcing of robot-projects. To describe the level of advancement of a robot, the term "Generation Robots" can be used. This term is coined by Professor Hans Moravec, Principal Research Scientist at the Carnegie Mellon University Robotics Institute in describing the near future evolution of robot technology. First generation robots, Moravec predicted in 1997, should have an intellectual capacity comparable to perhaps a lizard and should become available by 2010. Because the first generation robot would be incapable of learning, however, Moravec predicts that the second generation robot would be an improvement over the first and become available by 2020, with an intelligence maybe comparable to that of a mouse. The third generation robot should have an intelligence comparable to that of a monkey. Though fourth generation robots, robots with human intelligence, professor Moravec predicts, would become possible, he does not predict this happening before around 2040 or 2050.[70]

The second is Evolutionary Robots. This is a methodology that uses evolutionary computation to help design robots, especially the body form, or motion and behavior controllers. In a similar way to natural evolution, a large population of robots is allowed to compete in some way, or their ability to perform a task is measured using a fitness function. Those that perform worst are removed from the population, and replaced by a new set, which have new behaviors based on those of the winners. Over time the population improves, and eventually a satisfactory robot may appear. This happens without any direct programming of the robots by the researchers. Researchers use this method both to create better robots,[71] and to explore the nature of evolution.[72] Because the process often requires many generations of robots to be simulated[73], this technique may be run entirely or mostly in simulation, then tested on real robots once the evolved algorithms are good enough.[74] Currently, there are about 1 million industrial robots toiling around the world, and Japan is the top country having high density of utilizing robots in its manufacturing industry.[75]

Education and training

The SCORBOT-ER 4u - educational robot.

Robotics is a common undergraduate area of study. Some universities offer degrees in robotics.

Robots recently became a popular tool in raising interests in computing for middle and high school students. First year computer science courses at several universities were developed which involves the programming of a robot instead of the traditional software engineering based coursework. Some Master courses in the field of Robotics are also offered.

Employment in robotics

A robot technician builds small all-terrain robots. (Courtesy: MobileRobots Inc)

As the number of robots increases, robotics-related jobs grow. Some jobs require existing job skills, such as building cables, assembling parts, and testing.



Script Pro manufactures a robot designed to help pharmacies fill prescriptions that consist of oral solids or medications in pill form. The pharmacist or pharmacy technician enters the prescription information into its information system. The system, upon determining whether or not the drug is in the robot, will send the information to the robot for filling. The robot has 3 different size vials to fill determined by the size of the pill. The robot technician, user, or pharmacist determines the needed size of the vial based on the tablet when the robot is stocked. Once the vial is filled it is brought up to a conveyor belt that delivers it to a holder that spins the vial and attaches the patient label. Afterwards it is set on another conveyor that delivers the patient’s medication vial to a slot labeled with the patient's name on an LED read out. The pharmacist or technician then checks the contents of the vial to ensure it’s the correct drug for the correct patient and then seals the vials and sends it out front to be picked up. The robot is a very time efficient device that the pharmacy depends on to fill prescriptions.

McKesson’s Robot RX is another healthcare robotics product that helps pharmacies dispense thousands of medications daily with little or no errors. The robot can be ten feet wide and thirty feet long and can hold hundreds of different kinds of medications and thousands of doses. The pharmacy saves many resources like staff members that are otherwise unavailable in a resource scarce industry. It uses an electromechanical head coupled with a pneumatic system to capture each dose and deliver it to its either stocked or dispensed location. The head moves along a single axis while it rotates 180 degrees to pull the medications. During this process it uses barcode technology to verify its pulling the correct drug. It then delivers the drug to a patient specific bin on a conveyor belt. Once the bin is filled with all of the drugs that a particular patient needs and that the robot stocks, the bin is then released and returned out on the conveyor belt to a technician waiting to load it into a cart for delivery to the floor.

Fig. 1: The Care-Providing robot FRIEND. (Photo: IAT)

The Care-Providing robot FRIEND is a semi-autonomous robot designed to support disabled and elderly people in their daily life activities, like preparing and serving a meal, or reintegration in professional life. FRIEND make it possible for such people, e.g. patients which are paraplegic, have muscle diseases or serious paralysis, e.g. due to strokes, to perform special tasks in daily life self-determined and without help from other people like therapists or nursing staff. The robot FRIEND is the third generation of such robots developed at the Institute of Automation (IAT) of University of Bremen within different research projects [76][77]. Within the last project, AMaRob (AMaRob web page), an interdisciplinary consortium, consisting of technicians, designers as well as therapists and further representatives of various interest groups, influences the development of FRIEND. Besides covering the various technical aspects, also design aspects were included as well as requirements from daily practice given by therapists, in order to develop a care-providing robot that is suitable for daily life activities. The AMaRob project was founded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF – Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung) within the “Leitinnovation Servicerobotik”.

See also


  1. ^ "Industry Spotlight: Robotics from Monster Career Advice". Retrieved 2007-08-26. 
  2. ^ According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the term "robotics" was first used in the short story "Liar!" published in the May, 1941 issue of Astounding Science Fiction.
  3. ^ "Robotics: About the Exhibition". The Tech Museum of Innovation. Retrieved 2008-09-15. 
  4. ^ Imitation of Life: A History of the First Robots
  5. ^ Waurzyniak, Patrick (2006-07). "Masters of Manufacturing: Joseph F. Engelberger". Society of Manufacturing Engineers 137 (1). 
  6. ^ "Company History". Fuji Yusoki Kogyo Co.. Retrieved 2008-09-12. 
  7. ^ "KUKA Industrial Robot FAMULUS". Retrieved 2008-01-10. 
  8. ^ Asimov, Isaac (1996) [1995]. "The Robot Chronicles". Gold. London: Voyager. pp. 224–225. ISBN 0-00-648202-3. 
  9. ^ Asimov, Isaac (1983). "4 The Word I Invented". Counting the Eons. Doubleday. "Robotics has become a sufficiently well developed technology to warrant articles and books on its history and I have watched this in amazement, and in some disbelief, because I invented … the word" 
  10. ^ Zunt, Dominik. "Who did actually invent the word "robot" and what does it mean?". The Karel Čapek website. Retrieved 2007-09-11. 
  11. ^ "Piezo LEGS - -09-26". 
  12. ^ "Squiggle Motors: Overview". Retrieved 2007-10-08. 
  13. ^ Nishibori et al. (2003). Robot Hand with Fingers Using Vibration-Type Ultrasonic Motors (Driving Characteristics). Journal of Robotics and Mechatronics. Retrieved 2007-10-09. 
  14. ^ {{cite paper|url=ef>Otake et al. (2001) (PDF). Shape Design of Gel Robots made of Electroactive Polymer Gel. Retrieved 2007-10-16. 
  15. ^ John D. Madden, 2007, /science.1146351
  16. ^ "Syntouch LLC: DigiTac(tm) Biomimetic Tactile Sensor Array". Retrieved 2009-08-10. 
  17. ^ Wettels N, Santos VJ, Johansson RS, et al. (2008). Biomimetic tactile sensor array. Advanced Robotics, 22, 829-849.
  18. ^ Israelis help develop revolutionary prosthetic hand Retrieved 2009-11-25
  19. ^ "What is a a robotic end-effector?". ATI Industrial Automation. 2007. Retrieved 2007-10-16. 
  20. ^ Crane, Carl D.; Joseph Duffy (1998-03). Kinematic Analysis of Robot Manipulators. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521570638. Retrieved 2007-10-16. 
  21. ^ Discovery Channel's Mythbusters making mechanical gripper from chain and metal wire
  22. ^ Definition "astrictive" (to bind, confine, or constrict) in Collins English Dictionary & Thesaurus
  23. ^ MANUS
  24. ^ Allcock, Andrew (2006-09). "Anthropomorphic hand is almost human". Machinery. Retrieved 2007-10-17. 
  25. ^ [1]
  26. ^ G.J. Monkman, S. Hesse, R. Steinmann & H. Schunk – Robot Grippers - Wiley, Berlin 2007
  27. ^ "ROBONAUT Activity Report". NASA. 2004-02. Retrieved 2007-10-20. 
  28. ^ Carnegie Mellon (2006-08-09). "Carnegie Mellon Researchers Develop New Type of Mobile Robot That Balances and Moves on a Ball Instead of Legs or Wheels". Press release. 
  29. ^ JPL Robotics: System: Commercial Rovers
  30. ^ Multipod robots easy to construct
  31. ^ AMRU-5 hexapod robot
  32. ^ "Achieving Stable Walking". Honda Worldwide. Retrieved 2007-10-22. 
  33. ^ "Funny Walk". Pooter Geek. 2004-12-28. Retrieved 2007-10-22. 
  34. ^ "ASIMO's Pimp Shuffle". Popular Science. 2007-01-09. Retrieved 2007-10-22. 
  35. ^ Vtec Forum: A drunk robot? thread
  36. ^ "3D One-Leg Hopper (1983–1984)". MIT Leg Laboratory. Retrieved 2007-10-22. 
  37. ^ "3D Biped (1989–1995)". MIT Leg Laboratory. 
  38. ^ "Quadruped (1984–1987)". MIT Leg Laboratory. 
  39. ^ "About the robots". Anybots. Retrieved 2007-10-23. 
  40. ^ "Homepage". Anybots. Retrieved 2007-10-23. 
  41. ^ "Dexter Jumps video". YouTube. 2007-03. Retrieved 2007-10-23. 
  42. ^ Collins, Steve; Wisse, Martijn; Ruina, Andy; Tedrake, Russ (2005-02-11). "Efficient bipedal robots based on passive-dynamic Walkers" (PDF). Science 307 (307): 1082–1085. doi:10.1126/science.1107799. PMID 15718465. Retrieved 2007-09-11. 
  43. ^ Collins, Steve; Ruina, Andy. "A bipedal walking robot with efficient and human-like gait". Proc. IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation.. 
  44. ^ "Testing the Limits". Boeing. pp. page 29. Retrieved 2008-04-09. 
  45. ^ Miller, Gavin. "Introduction". Retrieved 2007-10-22. 
  46. ^ ACM-R5
  47. ^ Swimming snake robot (commentary in Japanese)
  48. ^ "Commercialized Quadruped Walking Vehicle "TITAN VII"". Hirose Fukushima Robotics Lab. Retrieved 2007-10-23. 
  49. ^ "Plen, the robot that skates across your desk". SCI FI Tech. 2007-01-23. Retrieved 2007-10-23. 
  50. ^ Capuchin at YouTube
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  52. ^ Stanford University: Stickybot
  53. ^ Sfakiotakis, et al. (1999-04) (PDF). Review of Fish Swimming Modes for Aquatic Locomotion. IEEE Journal of Oceanic Engineering. Retrieved 2007-10-24. 
  54. ^ Richard Mason. "What is the market for robot fish?". 
  55. ^ "Robotic fish powered by Gumstix PC and PIC". Human Centred Robotics Group at Essex University. Retrieved 2007-10-25. 
  56. ^ Witoon Juwarahawong. "Fish Robot". Institute of Field Robotics. Retrieved 2007-10-25. 
  57. ^ Survey of the State of the Art in Human Language Technology: 1.2: Speech Recognition
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  59. ^ "History of Speech & Voice Recognition and Transcription Software". Dragon Naturally Speaking. Retrieved 2007-10-27. 
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  61. ^ Markus Kohler. "Vision Based Hand Gesture Recognition Systems". University of Dortmund. Retrieved 2007-10-28. 
  62. ^ Frubber facial expressions
  63. ^ Nexi facial expressions
  64. ^ "Kismet: Robot at MIT's AI Lab Interacts With Humans". Sam Ogden. Retrieved 2007-10-28. 
  65. ^ (Park et al. 2005) Synthetic Personality in Robots and its Effect on Human-Robot Relationship
  66. ^ National Public Radio: Robot Receptionist Dishes Directions and Attitude
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Further reading

External links

Study guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

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The Robotics Wiki Book
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Robotics brings together several very different engineering areas and skills. There is metalworking for the body. There is mechanics for mounting the wheels on the axles, connecting them to the motors and keeping the body in balance. You need electronics to power the motors and connect the sensors to the controllers. At last you need the software to understand the sensors and drive the robot around.

This Wikibook tries to cover all the key areas of robotics as a hobby. When possible examples from industrial robots will be addressed too.

You'll notice very few "exact" values in these texts. Instead, vague terms like "small", "heavy" and "light" will be used. This is because most of the time you'll have a lot of freedom in picking these values, and all robot projects are unique in available materials.

An Introduction to Robotics

Robotics can be described as the current pinnacle of technical development. Robotics is a confluence science using the continuing advancements of mechanical engineering, material science, sensor fabrication, manufacturing techniques, and advanced algorithms. The study and practice of robotics will expose a dabbler or professional to hundreds of different avenues of study. For some, the romanticism of robotics brings forth an almost magical curiosity of the world leading to creation of amazing machines. A journey of a lifetime awaits in robotics.

Robotics can be defined as the science or study of the technology primarily associated with the design, fabrication, theory, and application of robots. While other fields contribute the mathematics, the techniques, and the components, robotics creates the magical end product. The practical applications of robots drive development of robotics and drive advancements in other sciences in turn. Crafters and researchers in robotics study more than just robotics.

The promise of robotics is easy to describe but hard for the mind to grasp. Robots hold the promise of moving and transforming materials with the same elan and ease as a computer program transforms data. Today, robots mine minerals, assemble semi-processed materials into automobile components, and assemble those components into automobiles. On the immediate horizon are self-driving cars, robotics to handle household chores, and assemble specialized machines on demand. It is not unreasonable to imagine robots that are given some task, such as reclaim desert into photovoltaic cells and arable land, and left to make their own way. Then the promise of robotics exceeds the minds grasp.

In summary, robotics is the field related to science and technology primarily related to robotics. It stands tall by standing the accomplishments of many other fields of study.

Defining Robots

Robot used in English describes any construct that automates some behavior. For example, a garage door opener automates the behavior of opening a door. A garage door opener has a sensor to detect the signal from the remote control, actuators to open the door, and a control system to stop turn off the motors and lights when the garage is fully closed. In practice, this type of a machine is better described as a Mechatronic device, and is a subset of the more interesting robots that include autonomy or resourcefulness. This book will consider mechatronic devices to be degenerate robots.

A Mechatronic Device is a degenerate robot with these components:

  1. Sensors, which detect the state of the environment
  2. Actuators, which modify the state of the environment
  3. A Control System, which controls the actuators based on the environment as depicted by the sensors

A Robot is a mechatronic device which also includes resourcefulness or autonomy. A device with autonomy does its thing "on its own" without a human directly guiding it moment-by-moment. Some authors would contend that all mechatronic devices are robots, and that this book's restriction on robot entails only specialized software.

Various types of robots are usually classified by their capabilities. Two examples will be used to capture most of what we see as a "robot".

  1. Machine Pet: A machine, capable of moving in some way, that can sense its surroundings and can act on what it senses autonomously. Most of these robots have no real useful purpose, other than to entertain and challenge. These are also commonly used for experimenting with sensors, artificial intelligence, actuators and more. Most of this book covers this type of robot.
  2. Autonomous Machine: A machine with sensors and actuators that can do some sort of work "on its own". This includes things like robotic lawnmowers and vacuum cleaners, and also self-operating construction machines such as CNC cutters. Most industrial and commercial robots fall in this category.

What isn't considered a "robot" in this book? Pretty much everything you see on RobotWars; those are remote-controlled vehicles without any form of autonomy, no sensors, and just enough of a control system to drive the actuators. These devices use many of the same mechanical technologies described in this book, but not the advanced controls.

In short: If it has autonomy it's a robot (in this book). If it's remote controlled, it isn't.

Student Questions

  1. Which of these studies would be considered robotics by this definition?
    1. Studying the strength and flexibility of a titanium alloy used to make a robotic arm?
    2. Integrating sensor data from sonar, laser, and CCD cameras and to build an accurate map of surroundings?
    3. The real-time software needed to drive two motors to make a robot go in a straight line?
  1. Classify each of these as a robot, a mechatronic device, a machine, or something else?
    1. A spam email filter.
    2. A garage door opener.
    3. A remote controlled boat.
    4. A 1970's automobile.
    5. A current model automobile which includes lane-following.
    6. An Apple iPod.
    7. An actor in a silver suit.
  1. What is a sensor?

Design Basics

Note to potential contributors: this section could be used to discuss the basics of robot design/construction.

  1. What you should know Development stage: 75% (as of June 2, 2006)
  2. Physical DesignDevelopment stage: 25% (as of June 2, 2006)
  3. Design softwareDevelopment stage: 50% (as of June 2, 2006)
  4. Tools and EquipmentDevelopment stage: 75% (as of June 2, 2006)
  5. Electronic ComponentsDevelopment stage: 75% (as of June 2, 2006)
  6. Mechanical ComponentsDevelopment stage: 50% (as of June 2, 2006)
  7. Building materialsDevelopment stage: 75% (as of June 2, 2006)
  8. Basic ProgrammingDevelopment stage: 50% (as of June 2, 2006)

Physical Construction

This section could be used to discuss various means through which robots are constructed.

  1. The Platform
  2. Construction Techniques
  3. Resourcefulness


This section could be used to discuss components used in robotics or the making of robots.

  1. Power Sources
  2. Actuation Devices
    1. Motors
    2. Shape Memory Alloys
    3. Air muscle
    4. Linear Electromagnetic
    5. Piezoelectric Actuators
    6. Pneumatics/Hydraulics
    7. Miniature internal combustion engines
  3. Grippers
  4. Audio
  5. Video

Computer Control

This section could be used to discuss the things involved with controlling robots via computers.

  1. Control Architectures
    1. Reactive Systems
    2. Sense-Plan-Act
    3. Brooks' Subsumption Architecture ( w:Subsumption architecture )
    4. Hybrid Systems
    5. Swarm Robotics
  2. The Interface
    1. Personal Computers
    2. Single Board Computers and multichip modules
    3. Microcontrollers
    4. Remote Control
    5. Networks


Sensors that a robot uses generally fall into three different categories:

  1. Environment sensors tell the robot what is happening around it
    1. Thermal Sensors
    2. Pressure Sensors
    3. Ranging Sensors
    4. Touch Sensors
  2. Feedback sensors tell the robot what it is actually doing, and
  3. Communication sensors allow a human or computer to provide a robot other information.

Sensors aren't perfect. When you use a sensor on your robot there will be a lot of times where the sensors acts funny. It could miss an obstacle, or see one where none is. Key to successfully using sensors is knowing how they function and what they really measure.


  1. Navigation
    1. Localization
    2. Collision Avoidance
    3. Exploration
    4. Mapping
    5. Trajectory Planning

Exotic Robots

This section could be used to cover "special" robots.

  1. Special Robot brains
  2. BEAM
  3. Cooperating Robots
  4. Hazardous Environment Robots
  5. Types of Robots
    1. Contest Robot
    2. Entertainment Robot
  6. Arms
  7. Modular and fractal Robots
  8. The LEGO World
    1. LEGO Robots
    2. Introduction to the RCX
    3. Programming the RCX

External links


Robotics´ Free Wikis

Other Wikibooks


  • CpE/EE 300: Introduction to Robotics class at the Missouri University of Science and Technology - Updates/Reworks to various pages
  • T.R. Darr - responsible for the (almost) complete reformat. If I knew anything about robotics, then I'd have contributed to the content as well.
  • J.D. Cox - Attempting to fill in certain areas with basic information.
  • Omegatron - I've built a handful of short-lived little robots, and since then I went and got myself an electronics degree. I'll probably just add to and clarify things that other people have contributed. I tend to only contribute to things that are already active, so be active!
  • Patrik - As time permits I'm adding more info I've found to be missing in many other sources. I've got a degree in electronics and I've designed and build several robots.
  • E. Sumner - Active member of the Dallas Personal Robotics Group; Trying to flesh things out a bit here.
  • Mr Dom - just added my two cents worth
  • DavidCary - degree in electrical engineering. So in theory I ought to know :-).
  • Magnus Persson - studying for Master of Science in Automation Engineering, added sections on PLCs and wireless communications.
  • Piyoosh Mukhija - Degree in Electronics & Communication Engineering. Working on Autonomous Robotics Research at L&T Infotech. Attempting to fill in some missing things I believe I know about.
  • S.J Manderson - Physics Student in New Zealand. Added sections on Electromagnetic Actuators and Pneumatics thus far.

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