The definition of a “robot” is a machine that performs preset tasks with minimal or no assistance from a human. The robot may only do the task as it is programmed. The designing, programming and testing of robots is called “robotics”.

A robot may not be computerised. A robot may be a mechanised piece of machinery, using cogs and springs. Visit this Leonardo da Vinci’s robots site to gain an historical perspective of robotics. The key idea is that these inventions were able to be programmed and then carry out a function with out help.

The contribution of Isaac Asimov, a 1940’s writer to the concept of robots, has lead to the Laws of Robotics. These laws actually assume that robots are artificial lifeforms and that with further development, robots could develop human traits such as consciousnesses and intelligence. This means that they would no longer require programming.

The Laws of Robotics were:

  1. A robot may not injure a human being.
  2. A robot must obey the orders given to them by a human unless the order breaks rule number one.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence, unless this breaks rule number one.

Brief History of Robotics

The history of robots has its origins in the ancient world. The modern concept began to be developed with the onset of the Industrial Revolution, which allowed the use of complex mechanics, and the subsequent introduction of electricity. This made it possible to power machines with small compact motors. In the early 20th century, the notion of a humanoid machine was developed. Today, one can envisage human-sized robots with the capacity for near-human thoughts and movement.

The first uses of modern robots were in factories as industrial robots – simple fixed machines capable of manufacturing tasks which allowed production with less need for human assistance. Digitally controlled industrial robots and robots using artificial intelligence have been built since the 2000s.

Want to learn more? 

Check the following video of the history of robotics or find out the history and future of robots by Dr. Kiki.

What could the earliest robot do

Robotics Task 1

Research or check this History of Robots site and then visit and create a Timeline deciding yourself which ten important points in history to record. Then save and embed this timeline in to your Robotics e-portfolio as Robotics Portfolio Task 1.

Leonardo Da Vinci's drumming Robot