When most people hear the term “robotics” they think of science fiction stories.As much as people may love the idea of autonomous beings that have been created by man, and have grown so much that they are now living totally independently of their creators, we are a long way away from that becoming a reality. The term “robotics” was coined from the name Robots. Essentially, Robots are robotic machines that carry out some kind of automated function. We see robotics at work in our every day life, although we may not think about it or see all of them, some great examples of these are:
Yes, almost every major piece of technology you use has some kind of robotics working within it. Robots are a combination of software and mechanical hardware that have been developed to do automated tasks. Almost everything you own with an electrical circuit in it will have some form of processing chip. That chip, working with the electronic and physical function of the machine is robotics at its finest. The simplest way to understand if something is a robot, is to ask yourself if the machine has a function it carries out, if that function can be changed, and if the machine can make decisions for itself. Making decisions for itself can sometimes be something as simple as just turning off or down if it gets too got. Automated, decision making machines are really the heart of robotics.
Behind the scenes
Behind the scenes of all robotic devices is a technical network of software and hardware. That software is developed by specialist developers in a lab and then tested and tested until they know the device will do what it needs to do. On top of that, a number of robotic machines will always have a number of saftey features built into them. Most of the time these are required by law. Lets take the example of a machine on a processing line.
The machine picks up a part and turns it over ready for the next machine to stamp a logo on the back. While picking something up and turning it over maybe a simple task for you and I, to get a machine to do this exactly, time after time, can be a hard task. Once the machine is built, software developers will design code that will tell the arm exactly what to do and programmed its motion into it. Once that is done, they will then need to set certain “what if” elements into the coding. Simply being ample to pick something up and turn it over is not enough for this robot. It needs to know what to do if two items are put in front of it, or if the item it needs to turn is on its side.
Perhaps it also needs to know what to do if, instead of detecting a piece of equipment below it, it detects a human hand, does it still come down and hit it? The answer is obviously not, however the small microchip processor within the machine will need to tell it what to do if certain things are not right. The end result of this may be something as simple as turning the machine off until a human can come and correct the situation. The concept of allowing a machine to make a choice based on any number of random situations is one of the most advanced elements of robotics in the modern age.
Over the last 10 years there has been some amazing developments within the robotics world. It used to be that a memory unit would be installed on the robot that would contain all of its commands, or the choices it would make. Now, a huge amount of space and time is saved in development, by keeping these commands within the cloud. The cloud is a virtual storage unit that will be off of the machine itself. So, all the machine needs is an internet connection and the ability to send and receive information. Once this is utilized on any machine, the number of functions it can carry out are almost endless.
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