History of Robots – Joseph Letzelter
Czech writer Karel ?apek introduced the word “Robot” in his play “R.U.R” (Rossum’s Universal Robots) in 1921. “Robot” in Czech comes from the word “robota”, meaning “labor”. The earliest ideas that could be related to the robotics of today was in 350 B.C. by the Greek mathematician Archytas of Tarentum. He created a mechanical bird he called ?The Pigeon.? The bird was propelled by steam.The idea of artificial people dates at least as far back as the ancient legend of Cadmus, who sowed dragon teeth that turned into soldiers; and the myth of Pygmalion, whose statue of Galatea came to life. In classical mythology, the malformed god of metalwork (Vulcan or Hephaestus) created mechanical servants, ranging from intelligent, golden handmaidens to more utilitarian three-legged tables that could move about under their own power. Jewish legend tells of the Golem, an clay statue animated by Kabbalistic magic.
The first recorded design of a humanoid robot was made by Leonardo da Vinci around the 1495. Da Vinci’s notebooks, rediscovered in the 1950s, contained detailed drawings for a mechanical knight that was apparently able to sit up, wave its arms, and move its head and jaw. The design was likely based on his anatomical research recorded in the Vitruvian Man. It is not known whether or not he attempted to build the robot .
The first known working robot was created in the 1738 by Jacques de Vaucanson, who made an android that played the flute, as well as a mechanical duck that reportedly ate and defecated. E.T.A. Hoffmann’s 1817 short story “The Sandman” features a doll-like mechanical woman, and Edward S. Ellis’ 1865 “Steam Man of the Prairies” expresses the American attraction with industrialization. A wave of stories about humanoid automatons culminated with the “Electric Man” by Luis Senarens in 1885.
Once technology advanced to the point where people foresaw mechanical creatures as more than toys, literary responses to the concept of robots reflected fears that humans would be replaced by their own creations. Frankenstein (1818), sometimes called the first science fiction novel, has become synonymous with this theme. When Capek’s play RUR introduced the concept of an assembly line run by robots who try to build still more robots, the theme took on economic and philosophical overtones, further disseminated by the classic movie Metropolis (1927), and the popular Blade Runner (1982) and The Terminator (1984). With robots a actuality and intelligent robots a likely prospect, a better understanding of connections between robots and human is embodied in such modern films as Spielberg’s A.I. (movie) (2001) and Proyas’ I, Robot (2004).
Many consider the first robot in the modern sense to be a teleoperated boat, similar to a modern ROV, devised by Nikola Tesla and demonstrated at an 1898 exhibition in Madison Square Garden. Based on his patent 613,809 for “teleautomation”, Tesla hoped to develop the “wireless torpedo” into an automated weapon system for the US Navy. The first electronic autonomous robots were created by Grey Walter at Bristol University, England in 1948.
Contemporary uses of robots
Robots are being used today to do the tasks that are either too dirty, hazardous, hard, cyclic or tedious for humans. This usually takes the form of industrial robots used in industrialized lines. Other applications include toxic waste cleanup, space exploration, mining, search and rescue, and mine finding. Manufacturing remains the primary market where robots are utilized. In particular, articulated robots, similar in motion capability to the human arm, are the most widely used. Applications include welding, painting and machine loading. The automotive industry has taken full advantage of this new technology where robots have been programmed to replace human labor in many simple repetitive tasks. The wide acceptance of such technologies, however, was delayed by the availability of cheap labour and high capital necessities of robotics.
While robotic machinery has achieved a certain amount of maturity, the social impact of these robots is largely unknown. The field of social robots is now promising and investigates the relationship between robots and humans. A ludobot is an instance of a social robot dedicated to entertainment and companionship. In early 2000s domestic robots have entered the mainstream culture, with the success of Sony’s Aibo and several manufacturers releasing robotic vacuum cleaners. Japanese corporations are infamous for their successes in developing humanoid robots and their plans to use the technology not only in their manufacturing plants, but also in Japanese homes. There is much hope in Japan, that home care for an aging (and long-lived) population can be better achieved through robotics. Robots have also been explored as a form of High-tech Art. Recent military conflicts have seen extensive use of robots in ground and air-based investigation, bomb-disposal, and most recently, remote controlled combat by human operators. The US military recently made to order an updated and revised former bomb-disposal robot as a combat robot, having it armed with a machine gun, but it is also capable of holding an RPG or rocket launcher. Unmanned Combat Air Vehicles have also been extensively used in recent American wars, with them being used to survey insurgents and even target them with smart bombs.