Robots Then and Now

What exactly is a robot? Do robots have to be made of metal? Do they have to be physical? Can we call a computer a robot, or a digital assistant a robot? Our understanding of robots has changed throughout history. Robots have changed from fictional to physical to digital.

Before they were robots

Robots existed as a concept before they existed in reality. Ancient cultures across the globe featured versions of robots in their mythologies. There were early attempts in ancient Greece to build mechanical automaton using hydraulic and pneumatic pressure. Clocks and mechanical figures powered by water and steam hardly seem like robots by today’s standards, but these early robots were remarkable feats of engineering in their time.

The birth of “robots”

The first use of the word “robot” came from the 1920 play R.U.R., or Rossumovi Universální Roboti (Rossum’s Universal Robots). Karel Čapek wrote the play, but credited his brother Josef with coining the term “robot”. While this was the first time the word robot was used to describe automation, the term was not entirely original. The Slavic word robota means “forced laborer”.

Robots go blue collar

The first industrial revolution got its legs in the mid-18th century. Steam engines were used to pump water out of mines, and factories began using engines for production. The use of factory machines became increasingly common throughout the 19th century. Still, these factory machines didn’t resemble what we recognize as factory robots today.

George Devol introduced Unimate, the world’s first modern industrial robot, in 1954. He sold the first Unimate to General Motors in 1960, and GM installed the robot the following year in a plant in Trenton, New Jersey.

Robots you can’t touch

Today, factory robots are commonplace in most plants and factories. We have industrial motion control systems that help with packaging, printing, machining, tooling, production, and most industrial applications. While these industrial robots can still mesmerize with their smooth, precise movements and elegant power, they’re no longer our most advanced robots. In fact, these robots are crude and primitive compared to the new school of robots.

Now, our most advanced robots are digital. They are computer programs and artificially intelligent software.They’re made of code and electrical signals rather than pistons and steel. As impressive as our digital robots are, however, they’re still in their infancy. We have occasional glimpses at their potential, but we don’t really know exactly what they’ll be capable of.

Are you taking care of your robots?

While no longer our most advanced robots, our old, industrial robots are still going to be important. Machine learning and artificial intelligence will totally revolutionize industry, but we will still need physical robots to carry out the physical aspects of manufacturing.

Make sure that your industrial robots keep working the way that they should. We specialize in Indramat industrial motion control systems. Call 479-422-0390 for immediate Indramat support.