The Development of Humanoid Robotics

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  • Topic: Robot, Robotics, Humanoid robot
  • Pages : 5 (1727 words )
  • Download(s) : 455
  • Published : March 6, 2007
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There is no definition of a robot that satisfies everybody. International standard ISO 8373 defines a "robot" as an automatically controlled, reprogrammable, multipurpose, manipulator programmable in three or more axes, which may be either fixed in place or mobile for use in industrial automation applications. This definition works well for ISO's main concern, industrial robotics, but it doesn't really take care of other realms. Joseph Engelberger, a literal pioneer in industrial robotics, once said, "I can't define a robot, but I know one when I see one." Robots can also be defined in a different way. A robot can be described as a mechanical or virtual, artificial agent, where an agent is defined as one who exerts power, or one who has the power to act, and as some kind of automatic process which can communicate with other agents to perform some collective task on behalf of one or more humans. We can see how this definition fits industrial robots, CNC machine tools, hazardous location robots, and other mechatronic devices that help us in our daily lives. Everyone also has seen science fiction films where robots walk and talk like humans, make intelligent decisions based on infallible logic, and carry out tasks on their own volition. Until recently, this has been science fiction for the most part. Between 1937 and 1938, Westinghouse produced a humanoid robot for the 1939 New York world fair called Elektro. Elektro could walk by voice command, talk (using a 78-rpm record player), smoke cigarettes, blow up balloons, and move its head and arms. It also had photoreactive eyes that could differentiate between red and green light. Realistically though, this robot was useless, and as such in the 1960's its head was given to a retiring engineer and its body was sold for scrap. Humanoid robots were all about the same until the early 1970's. The Wabot-1, developed at Waseda University between 1970 and 1973, is known as the first (real) humanoid robot in the world. Considering this machine was born in the very early 70's, its announced abilities were actually somewhat impressive. The Wabot had a humanoid structure including somewhat working legs, gripping hands with tactile sensors, and "artificial intelligence" systems that made it comparable to a one-and-half-year-old child, as stated at the time. Its artificially intelligent interaction systems actually only included a very primitive communication system (speech synthesis, speech recognition) and a visual system. It was able to "communicate" in Japanese. By today's standards, this would be only marginally impressive for 8th graders to build using parts from the hardware store and Lego Mindstorm components, though it is more impressive than a 300lb hunk of steel and aluminum that only tells the different between red and green, plays your grandmother's records, and smokes cigarettes. In just these past 30 some years we have grown beyond somewhat working legs and primitive communication to a much higher plain. As such, there have been so many advancements and technological breakthroughs that a 5 page paper could not contain them all, seriously. We'll touch on a few of the real groundbreaking events in the world of humanoid robotics. By 1984, Waseda University had created the Wabot-2, a musician humanoid robot able to communicate with a person, read a normal musical score with his eyes and play tunes of average difficulty on an electric piano. This was an important breakthrough because it was one of the first real attempts of specializing a robot for domestic use, which is 23 years later, what's on everybody's mind. Even though a robot that sits there and plays the piano better than you or I is pretty neat, the fact that it can't get up and go do anything else is problematic. Not even considering that the advanced computers and control systems to make it able to do other things were not available at the time, the actual act of getting up and walking would take many more years to...
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