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What is Robotics?

Robotics is a branch of engineering, specifically mechatronics, which studies and develops methods that allow a robot to perform specific tasks by automatically reproducing human work.

Robotics is an interdisciplinary science in which different knowledge and disciplines converge, whether of humanistic (such as linguistics) or scientific nature (such as biology, physiology, psychology, electronics, physics, computer science, mathematics and mechanics). 

It follows that, for the design of a robot, professionals with different formations are involved.

The origin of robotics

The first industrial robot of the story appears in 1961, thanks to General Motors that introduced, in its automobile factory in New Jersey, a mechanical arm designed in the mid-1950s by Joseph Engelberger and George Devol.

Instead, humanoid robotics appeared in Japan in 1970, with Wabot-1, designed by the University of Tokyo. It was the first anthropomorphic robot: an automaton capable of reproducing some characteristics of man and imitating his appearance, movements and perceptive abilities. 

Meanwhile, in the United States, the first military drone (Lockheed D-21), capable of autonomously taking off, was developed.

Etymology of Robot

The use of the term robot dates back to 1920. It was introduced by Czech writer Karel Čapek with the meaning of “worker”.

The definition is close to the one attributed by Robotic Institute of America, according to which the robot is a “multifunctional manipulator”, able to perform different tasks through a series of programmed movements.

The origin of the name, however, is literary. The word robotics was first used in print by Isaac Asimov, in his science fiction short story “Liar!”, published in May 1941. In some of Asimov’s other works, he states that the first use of the word robotics was in his short story “Runaround”, where he introduced his concept of The Three Laws of Robotics.

What are the Three Laws of Robotics?

1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

2. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.

3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

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