humanoid robot

What is robotic technology? While robotics automation is known by all, there is no unified definition. Many say that robots are artificially created through programming and are able to make a series of coordinated, dexterous movements. Others say that robots may be aware of its environment and able to move around things or make choices based on programmed sequences. What separates a robot from a piece of ordinary machinery is said to be its “mental agency,” which is the ability to make choices or act based on a number of preprogrammed possibilities, whereas a normal machine is only capable of one set function.

Historically, ancient people believed in the existence of a humanoid robot species. The Greek god Hephaestus was thought to have created mechanical servants to help him build temples. Furthermore, the Jewish people thought that clay golems could come to life and the Norse believed that clay giants could awaken. In 4th Century BC, Greek mathematicians Archytas of Tarentum proposed that he could create a steam-powered bird known as “The Pigeon.” Additionally, Hero of Alexandria (10-70 AD) devised automated machinery powered by air pressure and steam. In 1088, Su Song developed the first clock tower that was built using mechanical figurines and audible chimes. In 1206, the first humanoid robot was created by Al-Jazari, a Muslim inventor who wished to entertain royal guests with automated musicians who played on a boat in a lake. Al-Jazari was already well-known for constructing everything from kitchen appliances and other astounding robotic machines.

In 1495, Leonardo da Vinci sketched out plans for a humanoid robot that could sit up, wave its arms and move its head, although it is unknown whether he tried to build it or not. It wasn’t until 1738 that Jacques de Vaucanson exhibited life-sized robotic technology in the form of a flutist, a piper and a duck. The duck robot design could flap its wings, move its neck, swallow food and give the impression of excreting that food again! In the 1700s, the Japanese built “Karakuri” tea-serving robots, as well as robots that shot arrows and painted. At the 1939 and 1940 World Fairs presented Elektro, a humanoid robot made by Westinghouse Electric Corporation that was the first robot designed to work. By 1948, robots were sensing light and navigating around objects. George Devol sold his robot “Unimate” to General Motors in 1954, which began a trend of industrial robotics. This modern robot, installed at the Trenton, NJ automotive plant, was programmed to lift hot metal from a die casting machine and stack the pieces together.

Despite the incredible usefulness of robotic technology, there is an underlying human fear that our creations may defeat us. Movies like “The Terminator,” “RoboCop,” “The Matrix” and “I Robot” paint a rather bleak portrait of a future involving robots. Can we trust military robot drones to make the right call when they’re carrying nuclear missiles? What if a robot malfunctions, injuring or killing a human? In one case, a Michigan factory worker was accidentally struck and killed by robotic arms back in 1979. In 1981, a Japanese factory worker failed to shut off the robot properly before performing routine maintenance and the robot malfunctioned, pushing him into a grinding machine! While these instances are extremely rare, safety is always a consideration, regardless.

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