The word robot comes from the Czech word robota, meaning“drudgery,” and first appeared in the 1921 play U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots). The drama ends badly when the machines rise up and kill their creators, leaving a sole lonely survivor.
More than a million robots are in use right now and the amazing fact is that half of them are in Japan.
Leonardo da Vinci drew up plans for an armored humanoid machine in 1495. Engineer Mark Rosheim has created a functional miniature version for NASA to help colonize Mars.
Robots can think. They can play complex games, such as chess, better than human beings.
Electronic sensors are a robot’s eyes and ears. Twin video cameras give the robot a 3-D view of the world.
Chris Melhuish of the Bristol Robotics Laboratory created robots that use bacteria-filled fuel cells to produce electricity from rotten apples and dead flies.
Australian researchers are trying to build a micro-robot that would mimic the swim stroke used by coli bacteria.
Hans Moravec, founder of Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Institute, predicts that robots will emerge as their own species by2040. “They could replace us in every essential task and, in principle,operate our society increasingly well without us,” he concludes, oddly cheery.
Elektro, the world’s first humanoid robot, debuted in1939. Built by Westinghouse, the seven-foot-tall walking machine“spoke” more than 700 words stored on 78-rpm records to simulate conversation.
PackBot’s manufacturer, iRobot, has also sold more than 2 million Roomba robotic vacuum cleaners, with the same environment-sensing technology.