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What is robotics? 

Robotics could be defined as a science that brings together several disciplines or branches of technology in order to design machines programmed to perform tasks automatically or simulate human or animal behavior. Broadly speaking without going into a lot of detail, a robot could be described as a computer that can move.

Robotics is dedicated to building devices that try to materialize the human desire to create beings in their likeness to respond to some of their most complex needs, as well as to free themselves from tedious or dangerous work. Robotics is related to the engineering, construction, and operation of robots. This sector has wide-ranging, diverse uses among consumers. 

What is the origin of the word robotics? 

The word robot comes from the Czech word ‘robota.’ It was used for the first time by science fiction writer Karel Čapek in his 1920 dramatic work R.U.R. (Rossumovi Univerzální Roboti, or Rossum’s Universal Robots); it was used to designate thinking machines that rise up and end up killing their creator. In the English translation of the work, the Czech word robota was translated as robot, of course.

The term robotics was coined by Isaac Asimov, who defined it as the science that studies robots. Asimov also came up with the three laws of robotics. In science fiction, humankind has imagined robots visiting new worlds, seizing power, or simply relieving us of our household chores. Anyway, they must comply with the three laws of robotics implemented by Isaac Asimov: a robot must never harm humans or allow humans to be harmed; it must obey its orders; and it must protect its own existence as long as that doesn’t conflict with the first two laws.

When was the first robot built? 

According to some sources, the first robots date back to at least the 3rd century BC; however, the first automated machines were more closely related to mechanics than robotics.

The first humanoid robot in the world was called Elektro, built by Westinghouse. This two-meter machine could walk and had a 700-word recording for the device to be able to simulate a conversation. It was exhibited at the World’s Fair in 1939 and 1940.

What are the most notable uses of robotics? 

Applications of robotics in professional sectors include:

  • Transporting materials
  • Assembly
  • Mechanical cutting, grinding, trimming, and polishing
  • Painting
  • Handling plastics and other materials
  • Dangerous tasks such as welding, using harmful inhalants, transporting heavy materials
  • Medication
  • Recycling

Robots are currently widely used in industry; they’re an indispensable element in most manufacturing processes. On October 5, 2018, in Spain, the Ferrovial company launched the ZRR project for municipal waste. It will analyze implementing robotics and artificial intelligence for classifying and selecting municipal urban waste over a period of 21 months. For this project, Ferrovial is working with the start-up Zenrobotics, which specializes in these innovative technologies.

This technological advancement is important for two main reasons:

  1. From a human point of view, robotics reduces human exposure to waste, thus reducing the negative impact it can have on our health.
  2. From a business point of view, robotization allows materials to be recovered more effectively, thus reducing costs, and with greater purity, so they are more usable and have a higher market value.

What advantages does using robotics have to offer? 

  • Higher precision
  • Helping people emotionally
  • Performing dangerous tasks
  • Expanded reality
  • Higher speeds
  • Lower costs
  • Going where humans can’t.
  • Doing tasks that would be deadly for humans

Is it possible to unite a human being and a robot?

Although it may still seem surprising, it has been possible to connect the human nervous system with automated systems, and it’s more common and widespread every day. The first steps have been taken by Kevin Warwick, a famous scientist who is considered to be the world’s first cyborg. Warwick has implanted himself with computer chips in his left arm, allowing him to remotely operate doors and other devices.

Artist Neil Harbisson (Mataró, 1984) is the first person to be legally recognized as a cyborg. Harbisson was born with a visual condition that prevents him from perceiving colors; he installed an antenna directly into his head to receive signals that allow him to see in color. In addition to chromatic stimuli, Harbisson can also receive other types of signals (music, images, etc.) from other devices, even beyond planet Earth. Harbisson is the first cyborg artist in history.

In 2010, Neil Harbisson and fellow artist Moon Ribas created the Cyborg Foundation, a non-profit organization that helps people become cyborgs, promotes the use of robotics as part of the human body, and advocates for cyborg rights.

Fun facts about robotics

During the Renaissance, famed artist Leonardo da Vinci designed some sketches of an armored machine with a humanoid shape. A miniature version that’s more functional has been built by a NASA scientist to assist with future colonization on Mars.

The Bristol Robotics Laboratory came up with a very interesting idea: robots that made their own food. The fuel from these battery-powered devices comes from bacteria found in bad apples and dead flies.

The founder of the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, Hans Moravec, has predicted that robots will become independent of humans by 2040. He believes that these thinking machines could replace humankind in many tasks and manage to run society more efficiently than their creators.

One of the most extraordinary robots built in this century is ASIMO, a humanoid robot created by the Honda company that is capable of learning just like a child. It can run, throw a ball, dance, perform fluid movements, and even carry on a conversation.

Sophia is the world’s first robot to be recognized as a citizen of a country. The humanoid robot was built by Hanson Robotics, a company based in Hong Kong. Sophia is capable of imitating more than 60 human gestures and expressions, learning, and holding a spontaneous conversation. Sophia has been a citizen of Saudi Arabia since October 2017.

There are more than 1 million service robots around the world. More than a quarter of them are in Japan. The Japanese hope to replace more than 3.5 million workers with robots by 2025.

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