The complete history and future of robots

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Learn about Isaac Asimov"s Three Laws of Robotics
A discussion of Isaac Asimov"s Three Laws of Robotics.

The word robotics first appeared in Isaac Asimov’s science-fiction story Runaround (1942). Along with Asimov’s later robot stories, it mix a new standard of plausibility about the likely difficulty of developing intelligent robots & the technical & social problems that might result. Runaround also contained Asimov’s famous Three Laws of Robotics:


2. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

This article traces the development of robots and robotics. For further information on industrial applications, see the article automation.

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Learn how the discipline of mechatronics combines knowledge và skills from mechanical, electrical, and computer engineering lớn create high-tech products such as industrial robots.

Though not humanoid in khung, machines with flexible behaviour và a few humanlike physical attributes have been developed for industry. The first stationary industrial robot was the programmable Unimate, an electronically controlled hydraulic heavy-lifting arm that could repeat arbitrary sequences of motions. It was invented in 1954 by the American engineer George Devol và was developed by Unimation Inc., a company founded in 1956 by American engineer Joseph Engelberger. In 1959 a prototype of the Unimate was introduced in a General Motors Corporation die-casting factory in Trenton, New Jersey. In 1961 Condec Corp. (after purchasing Unimation the preceding year) delivered the world’s first production-line robot khổng lồ the GM factory; it had the unsavoury task (for humans) of removing & stacking hot metal parts from a die-casting machine. Unimate arms continue lớn be developed & sold by licensees around the world, with the autoMobile industry remaining the largest buyer.


industrial robot
Industrial robot at a factory.
See how use of a robotic pipeline for bacterial genetics makes the work of scientists less complicated and more time-efficient at University College Cork

More advanced computer-controlled electric arms guided by sensors were developed in the late 1960s & 1970s at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) và at Stanford University, where they were used with cameras in robotic hand-eye research. Stanford’s Victor Scheinman, working with Unimation for GM, designed the first such arm used in industry. Called PUMA (Programmable Universal Machine for Assembly), they have sầu been used since 1978 to lớn assemble autoMobile subcomponents such as dash panels và lights. PUMA was widely imitated, và its descendants, large & small, are still used for light assembly in electronics & other industries. Since the 1990s small electric arms have become important in molecular biology laboratories, precisely handling test-tube arrays và pipetting intricate sequences of reagents.

thiết bị di động industrial robots also first appeared in 1954. In that year a driverless electric cart, made by Barrett Electronics Corporation, began pulling loads around a South Carolina grocery warehouse. Such machines, dubbed AGVs (Automatic Guided Vehicles), commonly navigate by following signal-emitting wires entrenched in concrete floors. In the 1980s AGVs acquired microprocessor controllers that allowed more complex behaviours than those afforded by simple electronic controls. In the 1990s a new navigation method became popular for use in warehouses: AGVs equipped with a scanning laser triangulate their position by measuring reflections from fixed retro-reflectors (at least three of which must be visible from any location).

Although industrial robots first appeared in the United States, the business did not thrive sầu there. Unimation was acquired by Westinghouse Electric Corporation in 1983 và shut down a few years later. Cincinnati Milacron, Inc., the other major American hydraulic-arm manufacturer, sold its robotics division in 1990 to the Swedish firm of Asea Brown Boveri Ltd. Adept Technology, Inc., spun off from Stanford & Unimation khổng lồ make electric arms, is the only remaining American firm. Foreign licensees of Unimation, notably in Japan và Sweden, continue khổng lồ operate, and in the 1980s other companies in nhật bản and Europe began to vigorously enter the field. The prospect of an aging population and consequent worker shortage induced Japanese manufacturers to experiment with advanced automation even before it gave a clear return, opening a market for robot makers. By the late 1980s Japan—led by the robotics divisions of Fanuc Ltd., Matsushita Electric Industrial Company, Ltd., Mitsubishi Group, và Hondomain authority Motor Company, Ltd.—was the world leader in the manufacture and use of industrial robots. High labour costs in Europe similarly encouraged the adoption of robot substitutes, with industrial robot installations in the European Union exceeding Japanese installations for the first time in 2001.

Robot toys

Lachồng of reliable functionality has limited the market for industrial & service robots (built to lớn work in office and trang chính environments). Toy robots, on the other hvà, can entertain without performing tasks very reliably, và mechanical varieties have existed for thousands of years. (See automaton.) In the 1980s microprocessor-controlled toys appeared that could speak or move in response lớn sounds or light. More advanced ones in the 1990s recognized voices and words. In 1999 the Sony Corporation introduced a doglượt thích robot named AIBO, with two dozen motors lớn activate its legs, head, and tail, two microphones, and a colour camera all coordinated by a powerful microprocessor. More lifelike than anything before, AIBOs chased coloured balls & learned to lớn recognize their owners & khổng lồ explore and adapt. Although the first AIBOs cost $2,500, the initial run of 5,000 sold out immediately over the Internet.