The robots ‘ history combines the best of science fiction with the technology of real life. When many Americans think about the word “robot,” they immediately come to mind years of portrayals of science fiction and action movies. And while science fiction often misses the mark, robots ‘ history owes quite a debt to masters of science fiction like Isaac Asimov. However, we have to define the term to truly understand the history and evolution of robotics. That’s hard to do, surprisingly. We will define a robot as a machine for our purposes which is capable of performing routine or complex actions programmed by engineers.
Today, robots can be used for surgery, massage therapy, space exploration, manufacturing, and code analysis, but the earliest robots were much more primitive-they were tools that could tell time or automobiles that could be used for entertainment purposes. Over the course of hundreds of years, humans have been developing robotics and automatons. Let’s get into the curious history of robots with this in mind and how far we’ve come in the robotics engineering branch.
Invent Like An Egyptian: Early Robotics
One of the first “robotics” cases in human history is the Egyptian water clock. The oldest water clock example, found in Amenhotep I’s tomb, dates back to 1500 BCE. A water outflow clock with measuring lines was marked along the inner container. The container was filled with water that was going to drip over time. The owner would simply check the measurement of the water to tell the time. Imagine filling your watch with water only after the battery died. What really made this invention remarkable, though, was not the use of water to tell time. It was rather that the water force in the clock would bang gongs or strike bells with human figurines at the hour. By 325 BCE Greece started using water clocks. And, just 25 years later, Greek mathematician Archytas invented the second known advancement in robotics. Archytas designed and built what is now known as The Pigeon, a mechanical bird that could be propelled through steam into the air. Another remarkable mind in the engineering field was Leonardo Da Vinci. Da Vinci designed and constructed what is now known as the Robot Knight in 1495. The robot could sit, stand, and move its arms using pulleys and cables, according to Leonardo’s Lost Robots by Mark Elling Rosheim.
Ducks And Trumpets: The Evolution Of Automation
We only really started to see the evolution of modern automation in the 17th century in the western world. Three automata were developed by Jacques de Vaucanson, a French inventor. Up to 12 songs could be played on a flute by the first automaton. We can only thank De Vaucanson for not being a recording machine. A tambourine, drum, and flute could play the second automaton. And a duck was the third, and most well-known. The duck was able to flap its wings, move, quack, and even “eat.” The real-life movements and sounds could be compared to the baby doll of today. However, Germany’s Friedrich Kauffman would invent the first modern automaton in 1810. The purpose of this robot is to look like a soldier. The soldier would blow a trumpet by using automatic bellows. Developments in mechanical programming Ada Lovelace has advanced the development of mechanical programming. Ada Byron, Lovelace’s Countess, was an English mathematician known for writing the Analytical Engine’s first algorithm. The analytical engine was proposed by Lovelace’s husband Charles Babbage, another mathematician, as a general-purpose computer. It was Lovelace who, between 1842 and 1843, could recognize the applications of the machine and explain the function of the machine to the British establishment. Lovelace died at the age of 36 and the Analytical Engine was never completed by Babbage. The engine, however, served as the precursor to the digital computer of today.
Additional advances: Started from the 1800s And Now We’re Here
In 1898, the famous inventory Nikola Tesla built a wireless torpedo that could be controlled by remote control. It was a process he called “tele-automation,” and at Madison Square Garden the robotic torpedo was shown. However, the term “robot” was not used until 1921 when a Czech writer, Karel Capek, coined the word to describe fiction automata. In 1942, writer Isaac Asimov would later make the complementary term “robotics” famous. After the World Wars, not only did Isaac Asimov’s robots capture Post-War America’s popular imagination; they kicked off a new era in the history of robotics. The Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer, or ENIAC, was formally built as soon as 1946. The ENIAC was one of the first general-purpose electronic computers, programmed by Betty Jennings, Frances Spence, Marlyn Wescoff, Kay McNulty, Betty Snyder, Ruth Lichterman, and many more. Notably, the program manual of the ENIAC was written by Adele Goldstine. Ida Rhodes then co-designed theC-10 programming language for UNIVAC I in 1950. UNIVAC I was the computer system that would be used later to determine the U.S. census.
George Devol was also going to invent Unimate in 1950, the first industrial robot. Unimate could carry castings for die and weld them into cars. These industrial robots would be programmed for a specific function as a means of replacing unskilled labor, similar to modern automation in manufacturing and other industrial areas. Unimate has been one of the most significant milestones in robots history. The decades of arm-like automatons were the 1960s and 1970s. Shakey (1966), the Stanford Arm (1969) and the Silver Arm (1974) created Puma350 (1985) and CyberKnife (1992), both as innovative medical robotic technology. These arm-like automatons actually look much like modern robotics. One such robot is the Expert Manipulative Massage Automation or Emma, developed by Albert Zhang. Emma, a product of AiTreat, a Singaporean startup, is a one-armed robot designed to provide human patients with massage therapy. Modern Robotics In Everyday Life Many Americans know the automated side of robotics even though they have not been given a name. How often during the three hours you were sucked into watching How It’s Made, have you noticed automated machines?
These automated machines replace repetitive manual labor to give people the ability in the same field to learn new skills. For example, it takes the average employee 15 seconds in the shipping industry to assemble a complete shipping box (including bubble wrap, tape, and barcode). In this time, assembling a box requires familiarity, technique, and speed. Such a job, however, does not pay a high wage. Robotics that replace manual labor like box assembly create job openings in the industry at a higher level. These positions require higher skills and higher salaries. Additional technological advances since the 2000s have resulted in more advanced automation and artificial intelligence. Automated machines are programmed to perform one action over and over and are currently used in manufacturing, maritime exploration, space exploration, military, and commercialized farming. Artificial Intelligence, or AI, is scheduled to evaluate an environment and take action to achieve a programmed objective. Recent advances in this field have resulted in software capable of preventing identity theft, producing search engine search queries and cracking FBI ciphers.
Looking at the future robotics history, AI is likely to play a major role. Websites such as Netflix and Hulu that are on demand already use predictive analytics to recommend genres and shows to viewers. Algorithms that show similarities based cluster recommendations enhance customer satisfaction. Businesses are also prone to using sentiment analysis software to gain an in-depth look at product and service public opinions. This helps consumers to better market businesses. It also keeps them in the know about negative feedback so that they can react quickly to minimize damage.
The Robotics Future: Where are we going from here?
Because of the rate of innovation, the future of robotics is difficult to measure. However, it is predicted that robots in the home and business world will most likely play a greater role. Over the past few years, products like Google Home, Amazon Echo, and Apple’s Siri have grown in popularity. Due to their convenience and ability to save on utility bills, increase comfort and improve security, Smart Homes also gained traction. Microsoft, Google, and Amazon also developed larger business world technologies. For example, Microsoft Office 365 users can now receive and make business calls without using another app within Microsoft Teams. What’s more, with Google’s Pixel Buds, which translate up to 40 languages in real time, language recognition has seen new innovation. It is also expected that automated robots will become more common outside the manufacturing and shipping industries. It is expected that as soon as 2019, up to 35% of organizations in health, logistics, and utilities will start exploring the use of automated robots. Innovations in technologies such as self-driven cars may be less likely to be involved in the future as much as they are. Car accidents involving self-driven vehicles demonstrate that it may be difficult to coexist between impulsive human drivers and careful self-driving cars. Space exploration is another area where it is expected that robotics will improve human progress.