Robots Overview

AI Methods in Robotics

"How old are you?" she wanted to know.

"Thirty-two," I said.

"Then you don't remember a world without robots. To you, a robot is a robot. Gears and metal; electricity and positrons. Mind and iron! Human-made! If necessary, human-destroyed! But you haven't worked with them, so you don't know them. They're a cleaner better breed than we are."

- from I, Robot by Isaac Asimov

The word Robot, which is derived from a Czech word meaning "menial labor," got its modern meaning from a 1920 play, R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots), by Czech playwright Karel Čapek (1890-1938). The robots in R.U.R. develop emotions and overthrow their human masters. A sinister "power struggle" with robots has long been a popular theme in science fiction - for a change of pace, try Isaac Asimov's "I, Robot" stories in which he consciously depicted robots as beneficial to society.

Today, robots are used in many ways, from lawn mowing to auto manufacturing. Scientists see practical uses for robots in performing socially undesirable, hazardous or even "impossible" tasks --- trash collection, toxic waste clean-up, desert and space exploration, and more. AI researchers are also interested in robots as a way to understand human (and not just human) intelligence in its primary function -- interacting with the real world.