Future Technologies: Robotics Into the 21st Century

Though robotics seems the technology of the future, it actually has its roots in ancient history. The study and field of robotics can be traced back to approximately 300 B.C. in Ancient China. The Muslim inventor Al-Jazari is credited with inventing a humanoid robot in 1206. By the 20th century, the field of robotics was one that held great fascination and offered virtually limitless possibilities. As technology began to focus on the development of computers, so too did the study of robotics continue to move forward. The 60s was a time that both computers and robotics saw great advancement. In 1961, the first industrial robot was used at the General Motors plant. By the 21st century, the automotive industry and manufacturing plants saw widespread use of robots for commercial production.

Robotics History

When it comes to pinpointing the first robot created; there is a bit of confusion. In addition to the robot created in 1206 by Al-Jazari, Leonardo da Vinci is credited with building a mechanical man referred to as the anthrobat. In 1921, Karel Capek used the word “robota” to describe slave like labor in his play titled Rossum’s Universal Robots. The word became associated with the humanoid prototypes. During the 1940s, Missouri native, William Grey Walter developed a robot named Elise the tortoise. In 1961, while at MIT, Heinrich Ernst created a computer that operated a mechanical hand called the MH-1. By 1962, General Motors used the first industrial arm robot that would ensure people remained safe while performing difficult tasks on the assembly line. Several other robots and computer programs were created that helped advance the field of robotics. 

Robotics Research Group
Robotics a Brief History
History of Robotic Surgery
Robotics: Emerging Technologies
Robots History (PDF) 

Robots by Decade

It was not until the 1950s that industrial robotics really took off. As technological advancements were made in areas such as electronics and computers, so too, did robotics make vast strides. During the 50s, Alan Turing released the “Turing Test” which attempted to measure whether or not machines or robots could think for themselves. In 1956, a conference held at Dartmouth College titled “The Dartmouth Summer Research Project on Artificial Intelligence” marked the first time the words “artificial intelligence” were used to describe robotics. The term “artificial intelligence” stuck and in 1959, MIT opened the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. In 1960, Ralph Moser created the “General Electric Walking Truck” that weighed 3,000 pounds and was a four-foot tall robot that could walk. In addition, that year, the American Machine and Foundry “AMF Corporation” created a robot named “Versatran.”

In 1961, General Motors utilized the first industrial robot. The robot was named Unimate and Devol and Engelberger created it. The robot performed welding and die casting work at the New Jersey plant. As robotics made an impact on manufacturing and industry, its uses to assist humans were being explored. In 1963, the “Rancho Arm” was created to assist handicapped people. Today, robotics has revolutionized the way handicapped people can reclaim the use of lost limbs. More robotic arms were developed and by 1969, the Stanford Arm marked the first robotic arm controlled electrically via a computer. By 1973, industrial robots were controlled by computers and the T3, created by Richard Hohn was available for commercial sale. In 1976, robotic arms were used by both Viking 1 and Viking 2 for space exploration. By 1980, the official robotic age was underway. More robots were developed and perfected during the last part of the 20th century, with robots finding their way to the silver screen, in hospital rooms, in space, and in industries such as automotive and manufacturing. By the 21st century, the science behind Humanoid robots was developed with companies such as Hanson Robotics that developed the humanoid “Jules” and a realistic looking “Albert Einstein” that walks and talks.

Short Timeline of Robots 
A Timeline of Artificial Intelligence  
Robotics Timeline (PDF)
Robots After All

Robotic Dependency

The 21st century sees robotics in everyday use. The automotive industry is full of robots that complete tasks often too difficult for humans to accomplish. Many assembly lines and manufacturing companies are manned by robots instead of people. Television stations use robotics for video production and filming. Where once man stood behind a camera and filmed inside a studio, many of these tasks are now accomplished by robots. Robotics has revolutionized the medical industry, as robotic surgery is now a staple in hospital rooms. Amputees are now experiencing the power of robotics with newly designed limbs that can respond to sensations and pressure as human limbs complete with nerves would. The field of robotics continues to advance brining new technological advances to many factors of society.

Expanding the Role of Robots 
The Future of Household Robots (PDF)  
From Humans to Robots (PDF)
Industrial Robots

Industrial Robots and Robot System Safety


Content Created and Provided By Charlotte Gray



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