Copyright © 2007 Dorling Kindersley
Robots are machines that behave a bit like people, and can perform difficult or repetitive tasks. HUMANOID ROBOTS even look like people, and can move about and do different jobs without human help. Many robots cannot quite do this. Some need people to guide them, or do just one specific job. Some cannot move. But even these robots will help to improve the movement, senses, and intelligence of robots yet to come.
Robots are good at exploring the oceans. They do not need air, and can survive deep water pressure that would crush a human diver. Some are little submarines that can gather data unaided. Others are attached to a ship and controlled by a human. They are ideal for inspecting oil rigs.
Domestic robots work in ordinary homes. Some do only one repetitive job, such as mowing grass or vacuuming floors. Some can respond to words and alert police or relatives if something goes wrong in the house. This makes them useful for elderly people.
About a million robots work in factories worldwide. Most are computer-controlled mechanical arms fixed to the floor. Industrial robots do jobs like welding car bodies and packing goods into boxes. They cannot see, so everything they need has to be in exactly the right place. Unlike human workers, they never get tired and rarely make mistakes.
Robots that look like people are called humanoids. They are harder to make than fixed arms or machines on wheels, because they have to balance and walk on two legs. They also need advanced senses, intelligence, and power systems that will keep going all day. However, they can use tools and fit in spaces designed for humans, so engineers are working hard to develop them.
Sony’s experimental QRIO is a friendly, intelligent companion and helper. It can dance, recognize faces, and talk. QRIO can walk on uneven surfaces and, unlike most other humanoids, get up again if it falls over. It even has feelings, which it expresses through words and body language, including changing the colour of its eyes.