Robotics is the science of designing and building self-operating machines, also known as robots. While the term “robotics” was first invented by Isaac Asimov in a short fiction story in 1941, the concept of robots dates back as far as Greek mythology, when the Greek god Hephaestus was said to have built mechanical talking servants. Modern robots use electricity and electronics to allow them to perform several different complext tasks. These types of robots only began to appear in the late 20th century, when a company named Unimation built Unimate, the world's first robot designed for industrial work. Since then, robotics has matured into not only a multi-billion dollar industry, but also a major new type of hobby for the technologically inclined.
Today, robots are ubiquitous. They are present in the military, performing tasks such as bomb disposal and serving as unmanned combat drones, which benefits American soldiers by taking them out of harm's way. The space industry is using robots to explore outer space and other worlds, which has resulted in humanity getting a look at the surface of Mars without risking lives in a manned mission. Robots also work in factories, producing cars and computer chips with a level of speed and accuracy that would be impossible with human hands. As a result of robotics technology in the manufacturing industry, goods are becoming cheaper for everyone. In addition, robots are being manufactured for entertainment purposes, such as robot pets and walking humanoid robots that are sold as toys. There are also androids, which are designed to look and behave like humans. A prominent example is the HRP-4, a singing robot created by Japan's National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology in 2009. Robots are being designed to work in hospitals, nursing homes, and for tending to patients who are immobile and who have no relatives to care for them.
Because computer technology is becoming cheaper, robotics has become affordable to every day hobbyists. Robot design kits are available on the market for families of modest means, enabling people of all economic levels to engage in the study and construction of robots. However, they may occasionally require an adapter to connect them, such as USB to Serial, USB to GPIB, or USB to Can. Troubleshooting has become easier with online forums for code help or a repurposed intraoral camera for getting a close look at physical parts. For help with the CanBUS, a Kvaser memorator can assist with data logging.
Robotics are even being integrated into traditional children's toys, particularly modular construction kits like Modular Robotics' Cubelets, Lego Mindstorm or kits from Vex Robotics. The availability of cheap robot design kits is enabling people of all ages and walks of life to participate in a variety of popular robot design competitions, which is further speeding up the evolution of robotics technology. The future of robotics is, like most other technologies, not entirely clear, however androids that walk like people, auto-piloted vehicles and machines with human-like artificial intelligence are all major sources of robotics research. Fortunately, the growth of cheaper and more powerful technology is helping to ensure that more people than ever will have a chance at contributing meaningfully to the future of robotics.
History of Robotics
Robotics Education and Training
Robotics Research & News
Robotics Organizations and Associations
Robotics Magazines and E-Zines
Student Guides to Robotics