In the past, the idea of living with robots seemed quite futuristic, and in some ways even unrealistic. However, over the last few decades robots have begun to be incorporated into the industry (and even into our daily lives). To the point where today they're a crucial factor in the production process of many companies. This is a reality thanks to robotics research, a topic that we're going to talk about in-depth to understand exactly what it's all about.
What is robotics?
It's natural to wonder what robotics is and what purpose it serves in today's society. After all, many people don't find it really necessary. But the truth's that robotics is a rather innovative science that brings together various technological fields to develop robotic machines. These creations are capable of performing a large number of automated tasks using their software. And no, they aren't designed to attack us and rule the world. On the contrary, their function is to help us.
Robotics can also be defined as an interdisciplinary industry that arises from the intersection of science, engineering, and technology. It incorporates different fields of scientific, computational, and informatics knowledge, and merges them with different branches of engineering. All this knowledge is necessary since it not only studies robots but also designs, develops, programs, produces and prepares them for their application.
Robotics also incorporates other disciplines such as artificial intelligence (AI), animatronics, algebra, and home automation. All this multidisciplinary congruence gives birth to a powerful source of innovation, consolidating it as one of the most important industrial scientific fields. And of course, the most visionary towards the future.
Type of robotics
There are a large number of robots today, so specifying what all the types are can be a bit tricky. Many of these are classified according to the sector in which they're used, but we'll try to divide them according to their category.
Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs)
Automated guided vehicles are robots designed to improve the performance of material transport and distribution processes. They're especially useful in factories and warehouses that need to transport heavy loads. AGVs can work both indoors and outdoors.
Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs)
Autonomous mobile robots are the type that can independently understand and navigate their environment. AMRs differ from their predecessors (AGVs), mostly because they don't require constant operator supervision.
These robots use a very sophisticated set of sensors. Which combine artificial intelligence, machine learning, and computer science to create route plans and in turn interpret their environment. They don't need electrical cables, as they're equipped with cameras and sensors that allow them to identify unexpected obstacles while exploring their surroundings.
Articulated robots are the most common type in the industrial sector. You have probably already seen the famous swivel-jointed robotic arm. In robotics terms, these joints are called axes. These robots are generally servo-driven. They can have a simple two-axis configuration or a more complex configuration of ten or more axes.
As the name suggests, humanoids are robots whose physical form is an almost replica of the human body. They can serve a variety of functions, either interacting with humans or for experimental purposes. Their human form makes them a quite versatile type of robot.
Collaborative robotics has brought with it the presence of cobots. These robots work together with humans, changing production processes in the industry. Unlike industrial robots, cobots can work efficiently and safely alongside other employees. Not only do they collaborate with human labor, but they also serve to protect the environment. As these machines free workers from performing repetitive, dangerous, and heavy tasks, reducing occupational hazards and illnesses.
Defining this type of robot is a bit more complicated since they don't fall into any of the established classifications. Instead, their structure is a sort of combination of the other groups. So they can be machines on wheels with joints or even have an almost human-like appearance.
Robotics functions and uses
Advances in robotics are becoming more and more evident in our present day. We can now find it in many areas of our lives. The most recognized are industrial robots, as they have been working in factories for decades. However, each of these robots has found its way into different sectors. Let's see what are their functions and uses in these:
For decades, robotics has been an essential factor in the industrial production sector. These robots help move materials, transport them, and also perform all kinds of tasks that humans can't do. These robots can be steady or mobile, to perform heavy tasks. They can also be cobots, to help employees to perform all kinds of activities and interact with them.
Robotics in the service field is even broader than you would expect. And it's the one we encounter most in our daily lives. These robots are often the most sophisticated and can take the form of mobile, autonomous, computer-controlled, or high-performance design devices. They usually work with artificial intelligence to have the ability to interact with people.
Within this field are robotic toys, which are also in sectors such as cinema, sports, and education. These robots serve the purpose of making people's lives easier, apart from the automation of industries.
Medical robotics is the one that has had the most development in recent years. These robots mostly specialize in healthcare and can take place in clinics, dental centers, ophthalmology, rehabilitation centers, among others. Their classification is quite extensive, one of the most common are the surgical robots. They are those that can perform high-precision movements with a minimum of error.
Robotics in space
Robotics has also been beneficial to NASA and other space organizations around the world. Who has been able to take advantage of robots to send them into space. This has been of great help in exploring the moon and Mars. In this sector, we find analog robots, which are mostly ideal for space exploration.