Robots. The very word instills panic in many, and inspires intrigue for others. Robots are a highly debated topic and one that most people are unsure of what to make of. On one hand they promise abundance and possibilities but on the other hand they are scaring us and taking our jobs. The perils of artificial intelligence mean that in the wrong hands, robots could easily become a threat to humanity.. An oft-discussed topic that has intrigued science fiction writers for decades.
In this article we will deep dive into the subject of robots and how they have been depicted in science-fiction print and films.
What is a robot?
A robot is a machine that is built to emulate human behavior in a given area. They can be programmed with both artificial intelligence (human brain) and robot brain (software).
History of robots
Mechanical devices in service of man is extremely old, there are examples found as old as 3000 B.C. The first known modern robots called “Unimate” (short for ‘Universal Automation’) were developed in the 1950s by George C. Devol from Louisville, Kentucky. Devol’s patent was in the 1950s acquired by Joseph Engleberger who took it to market and is today seen as “the Father of Robotics.”
The first use of the word “robot” is in Karel Čapek’s play R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots) which he wrote in 1920. The word is derived from the Czech for “forced-labor.” Robots have gone through many changes since then, from simple industrial robots to the sophisticated humanoid robots of today.
Different Types of Robots
There are many different types of robots, ranging from simple to complex. The simplest are the robots that help in factories and assembly lines. They are simple and requires little maintenance, but their purpose is only limited to performing tasks restricted to a certain area of work.
–Factory robots: Robots which are designed to perform simple tasks in factories.
–Transportation and delivery robots: A simple example of a transportation robot is a postal courier.
–Hauling robots: Robots which are used for the recycling of waste materials.
–Cleaning robots: Cleaning robots are used in factories, warehouses, garages and other workplaces.
–Robotic vacuum cleaners & lawn mowers: Robotic vacuum cleaners and lawn mowers are used to clean homes.
–Kitchen assistant robots: Cooking robots are robots that are used in the kitchen.
–Agricultural robots: Agricultural robots are used in farming, agriculture and related fields.
–Clinical robots: Robots which are used for medical purposes like surgery.
–Military and armed robots: Armed military robots are used by the United States military to minimize human casualties.
–Surveillance robots: Surveillance robots are responsible for areas which is unsafe for humans to enter.
–Space exploration and rescue robots: Space exploration is extremely dangerous, and it requires a lot of efforts to provide an environment for human beings.
–Robotic toys: Toy robots are used to keep kids entertained and are also used for education.
–Robotic pets: Some people are interested in having a pet which is not guided by human beings. Robotics plays an important role in the creation of robots which look like animals.
–Mobile robots: Mobile robots are the most common robots today, they are self-contained; designed for a specific task.
–Android: Androids are fully autonomous humanoid robots that are designed to look and behave like humans.
Robots in Film and Fiction
Science fiction writers have been deeply fascinated by robots for decades. They are a popular topic for movies, television shows, and books. Robots that have come to life in your imagination will be discussed here. In the beginning of the science-fiction genre, robots were built to be strong and powerful, but their complexity was limited.
This changed in 1921 with the publication of a novel that really set the stage for robots. This novel was Karel Čapek’s R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots), which was an attempt to create an artificial intelligence that was more intelligent than humans. Čapek’s robot, Karel, became the prototype for robots of the future.
Later in the early part of the twentieth century, writers and filmmakers began visualizing robots having more freewill than their predecessors. Stanislav Szukalski’s “Wastelands” came out in 1958 and is considered to be one of the first cyberpunk works. The book takes place in the year 2054, where he describes “cyberpunks” that now work as robotic-like assistants.
In 1960, the term “robotics” was coined by science fiction authors Isaac Asimov and John W. Campbell. Asimov is known for many famous works of science fiction, including I, Robot.
I, robot was written from the point of view of an android named R. Daneel Olivaw. The book revolves around the social implications that arise from humans interacting with robots in society. It is also known for its influence on Robotics and Artificial Intelligence.
The Three “Laws of Robotics”
In I, Robot Asimov proposed three “Laws of Robotics” as a way to define ethical and logical behavior for robots. The three laws are:
A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
- R2-D2. As seen in: Star Wars.
- Terminator. As seen in: The Terminator.
- HAL 9000. As seen in: 2001: A Space Odyssey.
- Marvin the Paranoid Android. As seen in: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (trilogy).
- C-3PO. As seen in: Star Wars.
- Robby The Robot. As seen in: Forbidden Planet.
- Iron Giant. As seen in: The Iron Giant.
- The Replicants. As seen in: Blade Runner.
- The Daleks. As seen in: Doctor Who .
- The Borg Queen. As seen in: Star Trek Voyager .
- Bender. As seen in: Futureama
- Data. As seen in: Star Trek series.
- Johnny 5. As seen in: Short Circuit.
- Bishop. As seen in: Aliens.
- Optimus Prime. As seen in: Transformers series.
- AWESOM-O. As seen in: South Park
- ROBOCOP. As seen in: RoboCop.
- Wall-E. As seen in: Wall-E
- Rosie The Robot. As seen in: The Jetsons: The Movie.
- Gort. As seen in: The Day the Earth Stood Still.
- Number Six. As seen in: Battlestar Galactica.
- Sonny. As seen in: I, Robot
- T-1000. As seen in: Terminator 2.
- Metal Gear Rex. As seen in: Metal Gear Solid.
- Linguo. As seen in: The Simpsons
The Future of Robotics
The field of robotics is advancing fast, and the term ‘robot’ has been used to describe a wide range of things over the years. There are robots that have taken over tasks traditionally done by people, and others that work with people. The field has many branches and is affected by advances in fields such as computer science, nanotechnology, and engineering.
The future of robotics will be driven by the application of nanotechnology and biomimicry to robotic engineering.
Nanotechnology is the study and manipulation of materials on an atomic scale for technological purposes. Nanobots are tiny robots, nanoscale in size, designed to perform basic tasks at the molecular level. Nanobots that repair living tissue and similar ‘bio-bots’ that can detect illness and administer medication are a few of the things that nanotechnology is being used for.
Biobots are hybrid robots / biological components that are inspired by nature’s mechanisms. They serve as a biological scaffold to perform a variety of tasks including drug delivery, damage measurement, molecular sensing and assembly. These bio-robots are used to combat a wide range of diseases, from AIDS to cancer, but could also be used to combat other environmental threats.
Cyborgs are a regular fixture of science fiction, from the eponymous 1966 novel by Martin Caidin to Star Wars and Deus Ex (where they were known as “augmented” humans). Cyborgs are created by replacing a significant component of the nervous system with an artificial substitute. The term cyborg has been used in a variety of contexts, and popular media blurs the distinction between categories of enhanced human beings by using the term interchangeably to refer to enhanced humans, robots with organic components (i.e. cyborgs), or genetically modified humans. The difference between transhumanism and cyborgs is that transhumanism intends to improve the human body, without replacing it, whereas cyborgs intend to replace all or part of their body with an artificial one.
Robots are a popular topic and creature in science fiction and are featured prominently in books, movies, TV shows, and other mediums. The last few decades have seen an explosion of interest in robotics both for industrial purposes as well as for entertainment. The field of robotics has advanced rapidly over the years and will be propelled into the future by the application of nanotechnology and biomimicry to robotic engineering.