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April 03, 2017

Essay : Robotics - Emerging Technology of 21st Century

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Robotics - Emerging Technology of 21st Century

Overview
  • What is Robotics ?
  • How robots work ?
  • The development of robots from 18th century to 20th century. 
  • Robots has wide ranging application in various fields viz. 
    • In the field of industry. 
    • In the field of military. 
    • In the field of space technology.
    • In the field of medical science.
    • In the field of pharmaceutical industry.
  • Some other notable application of robotics.
  • The advantages of Robotics. 
  • The disadvantages of Robotics. 
  • Robotics supplements, not supplants humans.
Robots are machines that can operate autonomously based on programs and commands embedded on its software. Robotics is therefore a convergence of computer science, mechanical engineering and electrical engineering. Robots are designed to replace humans in fields which are viable for automated pre-programmed operations. However, in recent times, 'Artificial Intelligence' has opened new vistas in the field of Robotics. It allows robots to also act autonomously i.e. it is an adaptive feature which has the ability to add human touch to robots. It is a cutting edge technology with cognitive functions embeded in robots. The field of Robotics has many advantages for humankind. However, in its different fields of application robots also pose threat to mankind. Therefore, for a comprehensive understanding of Robotics, its application in different fields and its associated advantages and disadvantages needs holistic evaluation for mankind.

The vast majority of robots do have several qualities in common. First of all, almost all robots have a movable body. Some only have motorised wheels, and other have dozens of movable segments, typically made of metal or plastic. Like the bones in our body, the individual segments are connected together with joints. Robots spin wheels and pivot jointed segments with some sort of actuator. Some robots use electric motors and solenoids as actuators; and some use a hydraulic system or pneumatic system. Robots trace its origin to performing simple tasks in industries. At the advent of industrial revolution in 18th century, robots made its foray in its most rudimentary form. However, remote controller devices and their operations started in 19th century in the form of guided missiles in navy called `Torpedoes'. Modern robots were invented in 20th century where Issac Asimor made landmark contribution in the field of Robotics. Issac Asimor gave the three laws of Robotics which still happens to the most fundamental concept in the field of Robotics. The advent of humanoid robots also made its mark in the 20th century. The depiction of humanoid robots as a popular character also finds its mention in Hollywood movie, Robot (2004).

Robots has wide ranging application in various fields. In the field of industrial robots in modern sense have existed for over 5 decades. There are many industrial applications of Robots. Robots are used as operators for handling industrial materials like in iron and steel industry for moulding iron, handling liquid iron. These collaborative works done by robots, lowers the hazard that can be encountered by robots. Robots in industry are also used for assembly. Among the many assembly operations include inserting, fitting, fixing of parts in the industry. In the metal industry robots are widely used for arc welding.

They are also used in auto industry and for manufacturing heavy machinery. Food processing industries use robots for dispensing materials, adhesives on packets etc. Similarly, they are used for processing in industry in the form of cutting, sawing, drilling etc. Robots are also used in the field of military. One of the greatest example of robotics in the field of military is in the form Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV). UAVs are used for surveillance, combats, reconnaissance operation conducted by military across the world. Other operations performed by robots are in diffusing and handling bombs, diffusing land mines.

US army has used robots in its operations in Iraq and Afghanistan for these purpose. US has also developed an advanced gun called 'Sentry guns'. These are unmanned guns which can be deployed in battlefields automatically identifying targets and firing at will. The advancements in military robotics may transform the way wars are fought in future. Technological powers of advanced countries may give them edge over others.

Robotics in recent times has also contributed immensely in the field of space technology. Internationally many efforts have been made successfully to deploy robots in outer space for exploration. NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission was launched in 2011. It placed 'Curiosity' a car sized robotics rover on the surface on Mars. Since, its touchdown in 2012 it has performed various investigation determining existence of life, water, habitability on the surface of Mars.
Similarly robots have also replaced some activities that could otherwise have required human space walks. Dextre' a two armed robot was used in International Space Station for repair works. Similarly, India's Mars orbiter mission, NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance orbiter, Cassinni mission to Saturn, NASA's Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) are examples of applications of Robotics in space science. Similarly, in the field of Medical Science Robotics has simplified the way it interacts with life and humans. Recently robots allowed for better intervention in tackling Ebola. As the disease was highly communicable and fatal. Therefore, robots were used for quarantine and detection of virus to a great extent. Robots are also used for surgery that requires very high degree of precision.

Similarly, robotics are used with very high success in prosthetic arms and legs. Research is underway to also restore eyesight with bionic eye technology. Robots are used in pharmaceutical industry for preparing medicine which requires exact minute amounts of ingredients. Robots have also been used in its advanced form in wheelchairs detecting cognitive thoughts and working accordingly. The wheelchair used by Stephen Hawking, a noted scientists is an example. Robotics has made great strides in the field of medicine leading to extending the lifespan and increasing the quality of life.

Some other notable applications of robotics in different fields are the following
  • They are used in cars with the application of Artificial Intelligence. 
  • The new Google car called Tesla is an example employing robotics for navigation in cars. 
  • Robots are used in the field of sports. They are used for firing balls at different speed and spin values for net practice in Cricket, Tennis, Baseball etc.
  • Robots were used during the Fukushima nuclear disaster, chernobyl disaster for cleaning radioactive materials. Similarly, there are innumerable examples of application of robotics in different fields. 
However, Robots also have some disadvantages. They lack human touch. But artificial intelligence is quickly filling the gap. Their employment in industries have led to retrenchment of labour force leading to unemployment. They need repair and are expensive to be used in small industries. In this way, Robotics has its own pros and cons. Robotics in 21st century has revolutionised many fields of human endeavour. The developments in the field of Artificial Intelligence has started filling the gap between man and machine. But there are ethical questions, involved in Artificial Intelligence and Robotics. 
Therefore, we should tread cautiously in this field of technology. In its any form, technology should simplify lives of human but not at the cost of invading and undermining value of human lives. Therefore, Robotics should supplement humans and not supplant them. 

Difficult Words with Meanings :
  • Cognitive concerned with the act or process of knowing, perceiving, etc
  • Foray initial venture
  • Rudimentary of or relating to basic facts or principles
  • Humanoid having human characteristics
  • Moulding the shape created or imparted to a thing by a mold
  • Sentry soilder to guard and prevent passage of unauthorised persons
  • Prosthetic a device either external or implanted, that substitute for missing or or defective part of the body
  • Retrenchment the act of reducing expenditure in order to improve financial stability
  • Supplant to take place of or substitute for (another). 
shared by Nisheeta Mirchandani
 
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