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Robotics is more than just a word, it is a reality. It means, essentially, the doing of something with computer-controlled machines. These machines are different. They are different as people are different and are given to different likes and dislikes, tasks and interests. There are some who say that robotics is an art, the art of getting the impossible from machines. There are others who say that robotics is a science, the science of doing with uncanny quickness and precision, tasks which we as humans can do, but don't like to do, or find it very boring to do. Then, there is the impossible. In this category we find chores where breathing is impossible, or where we would burn up readily.
Recall a machine that cleans the hulls of large ships: a scrubber. It is equipped with fast rotating brushes of special alloys and a gripping force to cause the scrubber to adhere to the side of the ship under water. That little scrubber does all its cleaning automatically, under programmed instructions from its computerized brain.
There is a story about a man on an automobile assembly line. He was a good worker, intelligent, and aggressive. He became bored with the task of continually inserting bolts into pre-drilled holes, hour after hour. One day he decided not to insert the bolts as he had been inserting them in the past- just to give his task some interest and variation. He cross threaded them, used short bolts and sometimes didn't use any bolts at all. Your imagination can fill out the further details of this story and what interesting and imaginative things you can come up with as you think about the various people who bought those cars! Robots can scrub or put bolts in holes forever- assuming that the power is kept on and the mechanics don't fail. Robots do not get tired or bored or even interested in what is going on. They just do what their little computerized brains tell them to do. Of course, some robots have really big brains but require knowledgeable, scientific human types to keep them operating smoothly.
You will, no doubt, immediately think of other applications for these machines. Although we hate to admit it, we can come up with one more reason for having a machine do tasks for us. They can do it better! Yes, it's true, they can do it better, for a longer period of time, and more consistently than any human can ever do. You see they have one advantage-they do not get tired! If we ask the fundamental question, will machines and computers take over the world? We will find that we've a disagreement on our hands. Some look at the exploding field of robotics and say there is no doubt that someday machines will control everything. These persons worry about jobs and activities and-yes, it is true -a loss of control over the machines by the humans who make them. They envision that someday machines will be making machines which control machines, etc. ad infinitum.
One thing is sure, no one has ever seen a machine making love, so there may be hope. Indeed, there is hope for all of us for an ever increasingly pleasurable future due to the fact that machines are around and doing things for us.
I extend my gratitude to the many companies and individuals who provided me with information, discussions, questions, and answers for this guide. Their illustrations are most informative. Now, for a trip through the fascinating world of advanced robotics, turn this page and keep going.
Thanks to the following companies for their cooperation in making this guide possible.