Robots give humans super powers, super speed, endurance, accuracy and longevity - now all we need is artificial intelligence.






ROBOTIC CARS - In June 2021 the autonomous vehicle (AV) company Cruise LLC, majority-owned by General Motors Co (GM.N), urged US President Joe Biden to back efforts to speed thousands of self-driving cars to U.S. roads, saying the country risks lagging behind China. The chief executive of Cruise, Dan Ammann, in a letter to Biden dated May 17, asked him to back legislation raising the cap on the number of vehicles that a company can seek to have exempted from safety standards that do not meet existing federal requirements that assume human drivers are in control."





Robots communicating with humans via touch    Robots morals, and image by Derek Bacon for the Economist





Robots could become a lot more 'sensitive' thanks to new artificial skins and sensor technologies developed by European scientists.

The new capabilities, and a production system for building touch-sensitivity into different robots, will improve the way robots work in unconstrained settings, as well as their ability to communicate and cooperate with each other and with humans. 

The EU-funded project 'Skin-based technologies and capabilities for safe, autonomous and interactive robots' (ROBOSKIN) developed new sensor technologies and management systems which give robots an artificial sense of touch - until now an elusive quality in robotics. 

According to the partners behind the research from Italy, Switzerland and the UK, it was important to create cognitive mechanisms that use tactile feedback (the sense of 'touch' or 'feel') and behaviour to make sure human-robot interaction is safe and effective for the envisaged future applications. 

The artificial skin is modelled largely on real skin, which has a tiny network of nerves that sense or feel changes like hot/cold or rough/smooth. In this case, the electronic sensors collect this so-called 'tactile data' and process it using application software which has been front-loaded to include some basic robot behaviours which can be added to over time. 

"Here, we opted for programming through demonstration and robot-assisted play so the robots learn as they go along by feeling, doing and interacting,' explains project coordinator Professor Giorgio Cannata of Genoa University, Italy. "We had to generate a degree of awareness in the robots to help them react to tactile events and physical contact with the outside world,' he adds. 

But robot cognition is extremely complex, so ROBOSKIN started with modest ambitions in lab tests by classifying types or degrees of touch. They created a geometric mapping using continuous contact between the test robot and the environment to build a 'body representation' - parameters by which data can be assimilated by the robot into behaviour. 

Outside the lab, on the other hand, ROBOSKIN sensor patches were applied to common touch points (feet, cheeks, arms) located on the University of Hertfordshire's KASPAR robot, a humanoid robot designed to help autistic children communicate better. 

"With our sensors, the robot could sense or detect contact and the data collected formed an important part of the contact classification we did - the distinction between, for example, wanted and unwanted touch," says Professor Cannata. 

ROBOSKIN scientists explored various technologies, from the more basic capacitive sensors in today's sensing technologies, to higher-performing transducers found in piezoelectric materials, and flexible organic semiconductors. 

"We'll see more and more piezoelectric materials - which can act like sensors because they react to changes brought on by contact with an outside force - in the near future," Professor Cannata predicts. But sensors using organic semiconductors will be the future game-changer, he suggests, as the chips will be printed on different organic materials like fake skin or bendable materials, and they will eventually be much cheaper to make, once scaled up. 

Tactile sensors are by no means new, stresses Professor Cannata, but ROBOSKIN has succeeded in developing a production system for building tactile sensing into different robots. These novel methods solve the decades-old problem of adding more sensory perception to robots. 



Very weak flows can now be detected using arrays of artificial 'hairs' that bio-mimic the sensitive body hairs used by crickets to sense predators.

An 'artificial' cricket hair, used as a sensitive flow sensor, has difficulty detecting weak, low-frequency signals – they tend to be drowned out by noise. But now, a bit of clever tinkering with the flexibility of the tiny hair’s supports has made it possible to boost the signal-to-noise ratio by a factor of 25.

This in turn means that weak flows can now be measured, say researchers at the MESA+ Institute for Nanotechnology of the University of Twente in the Netherlands.

These tiny hairs, which are manufactured using microtechnology techniques, are neatly arranged in rows and mimic the extremely sensitive body hairs that crickets use to detect predators.

When a hair moves, the electrical capacitance at its base changes, making the movement measurable. If there is an entire array of hairs, then this effect can be used to measure flow patterns. In the same way, changes in air flow tell crickets that they are about to be attacked.

In the case of low-frequency signals, the noise inherent to the measurement system itself tends to throw a spanner in the works by drowning out the very signals that the system was designed to measure.

One very appealing idea is to 'move' these signals into the high frequency range, where noise is a much less significant factor. The MESA+ researchers achieve this by periodically changing the hairs’ spring rate. They do so by applying an electrical voltage.

This adjustment also causes the hairs to vibrate at a high frequency. This resembles the technology used in old AM radios, where the audio signal is encoded on a higher frequency wave. In the case of the sensor, its 'radio' is a mechanical device.

Low frequency flows are measured by tiny hairs vibrating at a higher frequency. The signal can then be retrieved, with significantly less noise. Suddenly, a previously unmeasurable signal emerges, thanks to this 'up-conversion' technique.

The applied electromechanical amplitude modulation expands the hair sensors’ range of applications enormously. According to the researchers, the technology could be a very useful way of boosting the performance of many other types of sensors.


Put these flow detectors together with the new skin sensors and you are very close to the human experience.






Whilst many European companies have identified the benefits that automation can bring it seems in the UK that companies are struggling to move away from the “make do and mend” attitude. The continued stifling of technological progression within manufacturing will hamper British efforts to compete internationally.

Global manufacturing is continuing to be modernised, automating everything including processes, monitoring, systems and assembly floors. With many international markets now able to compete on both cost and quality, it is imperative that UK manufactures adapt accordingly to increase efficiency and productivity. This will enable competition to continue in an ever more cost sensitive market.

Automation improves time and cost savings, increases quality and efficiency, and enhances health and safety rates. This conference addresses the current issues facing UK manufacturers and more importantly gives attendees key tools and techniques to successfully compete in a global market.



Understand how cost and time efficiencies can be achieved through automation
Enable your company to successfully manage the process of securing private public finance
Understand what human capital changes are required to necessitate automation
Learn why the implementation automation is essential to compete in world manufacturing
Understand how to accurately forecast cost when implementing automation: equipment, time, and people.




It is the autonomous operation of machines or industrial plants and factories by utilising data from sensors to control key output components, such as motors, pumps, heaters and valves.

The state of the machine or plant is monitored by the sensors and compared with the desired state, and a decision-making device, usually electronic, drives the key output components to achieve the required state. Automation helps improve the consistency of industrial processes and operations, thus improving overall quality. It also reduces costs by making the process more efficient than labour-intensive alternatives. By making manufacturing competitive on a global stage, and by maximising quality and value for money, automation helps build employment in a modern economy by enabling a stable manufacturing community and supporting high value-added jobs in the manufacturing company itself and through the supply chain.





As robots become more autonomous, the notion of computer-controlled machines facing ethical decisions is moving out of the realm of science fiction and into the real world. Society needs to find ways to ensure that they are better equipped to make moral judgments than HAL was.

Military technology, unsurprisingly, is at the forefront of the march towards self-determining machines. Its evolution is producing an extraordinary variety of species. The Sand Flea can leap through a window or onto a roof, filming all the while. It then rolls along on wheels until it needs to jump again. RiSE, a six-legged robo-cockroach, can climb walls. LS3, a dog-like robot, trots behind a human over rough terrain, carrying up to 180kg of supplies. SUGV, a briefcase-sized robot, can identify a man in a crowd and follow him. There is a flying surveillance drone the weight of a wedding ring, and one that carries 2.7 tonnes of bombs.

Robots are spreading in the civilian world, too, from the flight deck to the operating theatre. Passenger aircraft have long been able to land themselves. Driverless trains are commonplace. Volvo’s new V40 hatchback essentially drives itself in heavy traffic. It can brake when it senses an imminent collision, as can Ford’s B-Max minivan. Fully self-driving vehicles are being tested around the world. Google’s driverless cars have clocked up more than 250,000 miles in America, and Nevada has become the first state to regulate such trials on public roads. In Barcelona a few days ago, Volvo demonstrated a platoon of autonomous cars on a motorway.

As they become smarter and more widespread, autonomous machines are bound to end up making life-or-death decisions in unpredictable situations, thus assuming—or at least appearing to assume—moral agency. Weapons systems currently have human operators “in the loop”, but as they grow more sophisticated, it will be possible to shift to “on the loop” operation, with machines carrying out orders autonomously.

As that happens, they will be presented with ethical dilemmas. Should a drone fire on a house where a target is known to be hiding, which may also be sheltering civilians? Should a driverless car swerve to avoid pedestrians if that means hitting other vehicles or endangering its occupants? Should a robot involved in disaster recovery tell people the truth about what is happening if that risks causing a panic? Such questions have led to the emergence of the field of “machine ethics”, which aims to give machines the ability to make such choices appropriately—in other words, to tell right from wrong.

One way of dealing with these difficult questions is to avoid them altogether. But that would deny what is inevitable. Banning autonomous battlefield robots will not work simply because the military is a law unto itslef. However, there is a good argument for requiring cars to have the full attention of a human driver at all times.


Campaign groups such as the International Committee for Robot Arms Control have been formed in opposition to the growing use of drones. But autonomous robots could do much more good than harm. Robot soldiers would not commit rape, burn down a village in anger or become erratic decision-makers amid the stress of combat. 


Driverless cars are very likely to be safer than ordinary vehicles, as autopilots have made planes safer. Sebastian Thrun, a pioneer in the field, reckons driverless cars could save 1m lives a year. For sure captainless ships would be far safer. Or at least ships with captains simply watching over the robot autopilot.





Robots are working all over the world almost every day to make the lives of humans easier.  Since the advent of microprocessors and computers, the possibilities for Robots to improve our civilisation are that much more.


We already have robot factories churning out cars to a higher standard, than those produced in manned factories.  Simple domestic robots are finding their way onto the market to relieve us of tedious tasks.  This is sure to mean more complex robots will be designed and become cheaper, to in turn, free humans more and more from everyday chores.  Put this emerging technology together with renewable energy, such as solar cells, and the possibilities are endless.  Not only could the world rely on plentiful renewable energy, but we'd have more time to devote to other problem areas in our society.  We could build a higher society where food, energy, healthcare and transport are available to all.  


Accordingly, we should encourage our children to become the engineers of tomorrow, to build on current state of the art, to produce practical robotic solutions for our future.



 Design engineer and patentee



Quote: Design engineer January 2005





In practical terms, a robot is a mechanical device which performs automated tasks, either according to direct human supervision, a pre-defined program or, a set of general guidelines, using artificial intelligence techniques. These tasks either replace or enhance human work, such as in manufacturing, construction or manipulation of heavy or hazardous materials.





A robot may include a feedback-driven connection between sense and action, not under direct human control. The action may take the form of electro-magnetic motors or actuators (also called effectors) that move an arm, open and close grips, or propel the robot. The step by step control and feedback is provided by a computer program run on either an external or embedded computer or a microcontroller. By this definition, a robot may include nearly all automated devices.

Two basic ways of using effectors are to move the robot around (locomotion) or to move other object around (manipulation) These divide robotics into two mostly separate categories: mobile robotics (moving) and manipulator robotics (grabbing).

Joints connect parts of manipulators. The most common joint types are:

  • rotary (rotation around a fixed axis)

  • prismatic (linear movement)

A parallel robot is one whose arms (primary axes) have three concurrent prismatic joints or both prismatic and rotary joints. Degrees Of Freedom (DOF) means axes of movement. The human arm has 6 DOF. A 6 DOF is highly flexible.


Proprioceptive sensors sense the robot's actuators (e.g., shaft encoders, joint angle sensors). Proprioception is one of the most important senses of the human body.


Alternately, robot has been used as the general term for a mechanical man, or an automaton resembling an animal, either real or imaginary. It has come to be applied to many machines which directly replace a human or animal in work or play. In this way, a robot can be seen as a form of biomimicry. Lack of anthropomorphism is perhaps what makes us reluctant to refer to the highly complex modern washer-dryer as a robot. However, in modern understanding, the term implies a degree of autonomy that would exclude many automatic machine tools from being called robots. It is the search for ever more highly autonomous robots which is the major focus of robotics research and which drives much work in artificial intelligence.



Robot playing piano



Though we tend to think of robots as tremendously sophisticated, thanks typically to their anthropomorphic physical design and our excess of indoctrination to the robots of 1960s television, the fundamental elements are very simple. Motion is achieved by motors controlled by digital circuits that incorporate a key power semiconductor switching element called a thyristor or silicon-controlled rectifier (SCR). 


The robot turns when only one of two parallel motors is actuated: for example, stopping the left motor while running the right motor causes the dummy to turn left. Digital signals fed to the motor control circuitry determine which motors move at which times. The problem can range from very simple (e.g., turning left or right) to very complex (e.g., controlling an elbow and wrist to move an item from a conveyor belt to a shelf). The signals can be sent by an outside element (e.g., a human operator) or by internal circuitry that makes "decisions" based upon observations of the robot's environment and may alter these decisions based upon whether the motion is proceeding satisfactorily.


Underlying simplicities notwithstanding, combinations of various computer systems and electromechanical subsystems can produce the appearance of profound sophistication, e.g., a "chess-playing robot" that really should be viewed as two discrete systems: 


(1) chess-playing software that has nothing to do with robotics; and 


(2) a robot that interacts with the chess board. The latter requires the abilities to: 


[a] locate a chessman on the board based upon its expected coordinates, 

[b] lift the man, 

[c] remove any captured man from the board, and 

[d] reposition the first man--all without breaking or knocking down chess pieces or committing other environmental faux pas.





The idea of artificial people dates at least as far back as the ancient legend of Cadmus, who sowed dragon teeth that turned into soldiers; and the myth of Pygmalion, whose statue of Galatea came to life. In classical mythology, the deformed god of metalwork (Vulcan or Hephaestus) created mechanical servants, ranging from intelligent, golden handmaidens to more utilitarian three-legged tables that could move about under their own power. Jewish legend tells of the Golem, an clay statue animated by Kabbalistic magic. Similarily, in the Younger Edda, Norse mythology tells of a clay giant, Mökkurkálfi or Mistcalf, constructed to aid the troll Hrungnir in a duel with Thor, the God of Thunder.


The first recorded design of a humanoid robot was made by Leonardo da Vinci around the 1495. Da Vinci's notebooks, rediscovered in the 1950s, contained detailed drawings for a mechanical knight that was apparently able to sit up, wave its arms, and move its head and jaw. The design was likely based on his anatomical research recorded in the Vitruvian Man. It is not known whether or not he attempted to build the robot (see: Leonardo's robot).


The first known functioning robot was created in the 1738 by Jacques de Vaucanson, who made an android that played the flute, as well as a mechanical duck that reportedly ate and defecated. E.T.A. Hoffmann's 1817 short story "The Sandman" features a doll-like mechanical woman, and Edward S. Ellis' 1865 "Steam Man of the Prairies" expresses the American fascination with industrialization. A wave of stories about humanoid automatons culminated with the "Electric Man" by Luis Senarens in 1885.


Once technology advanced to the point where people foresaw mechanical creatures as more than toys, literary responses to the concept of robots reflected fears that humans would be replaced by their own creations. Frankenstein (1818), sometimes called the first science fiction novel, has become synonymous with this theme. When Capek's play RUR introduced the concept of an assembly line run by robots who try to build still more robots, the theme took on economic and philosophical overtones, further disseminated by the classic movie Metropolis (1927), and the popular Blade Runner (1982) and The Terminator (1984). With robots a reality and intelligent robots a likely prospect, a better understanding of interactions between robots and human is embodied in such modern films as Spielberg's A.I. (movie) (2001) and Proyas' I, Robot (2004).


Many consider the first robot in the modern sense to be a teleoperated boat, similar to a modern ROV, devised by Nikola Tesla and demonstrated at an 1898 exhibition in Madison Square Garden. Based on his patent 613,809 for "teleautomation", Tesla hoped to develop the "wireless torpedo" into an automated weapon system for the US Navy.


The first electronic autonomous robots were created by Grey Walter at Bristol University, England in 1948.



Sensor modelling and design for autonomous navigation



Literary history


The word robot comes from the Czech robota meaning "labor." The word was first used in Karel Capek's play R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots) (written in 1920; first performed 1921; performed in New York 1922; English edition published 1923).


While Karel is frequently acknowledged as the originator of the word, he wrote a short letter in reference to the Oxford English Dictionary etymology in which he named his brother, painter and writer Josef Capek as its true inventor.


Some claim that the word "robot" was first used in Josef Capek's short story Opilec (the Drunkard) published in the collection Lelio in 1917. According to the Capek brother's Society in Prague, this is not correct. The word used in Opilec is "automat." "Robot" appeared in RUR for the first time.


Although Capek's robots were organic artificial humans, the word robot has come to refer to mechanical humans. The term android can mean either one of these, while a cyborg ("cybernetic organism" or "bionic man") would be a creature that is a combination of organic and mechanical parts.  The word "robotics" was first used (in print) in Isaac Asimov's story Runaround (1942). In it, he referred to the 'three rules of robotics' that later became the Three Laws of Robotics.



Contemporary uses of robots


Robots are being used today to do the tasks that are either too dirty, dangerous, difficult, repetitive or dull for humans. This usually takes the form of industrial robots used in manufacturing lines. Other applications include toxic waste cleanup, space exploration, mining, search and rescue, and mine finding. Manufacturing remains the primary market where robots are utilized. In particular, articulated robots, similar in motion capability to the human arm, are the most widely used. Applications include welding, painting and machine loading. 


The automotive industry has taken full advantage of this new technology where robots have been programmed to replace human labor in many simple repetitive tasks. The wide adoption of such technologies, however, was delayed by the availability of cheap labour and high capital requirements of robotics. Robotic AGVs (Automated Guided Vehicles) and other autonomous delivery robots are beginning to be used in the industry, hospitals, laboratories, server facilities and other applications where risk, reliability and security are important concerns. Likewise, autonomously patrolling safety and security robots are appearing as part of the growing move toward automated buildings.


While robotic technology has achieved a certain amount of maturity, the social impact of these robots is largely unknown. The field of social robots is now emerging and investigates the relationship between robots and humans. A ludobot is an instance of a social robot dedicated to entertainment and companionship.


In early 2000s domestic robots have entered the mainstream culture, with the success of Sony's Aibo and several manufacturers releasing robotic vacuum cleaners. The most popular category of home robots is the robotic vacuum cleaners, with 570,000 units sold worldwide by the end of 2003.  Japanese corporations are notorious for their successes in developing humanoid robots and their plans to use the technology not only in their manufacturing plants, but also in Japanese homes. There is much hope in Japan, that home care for an aging (and long-lived) population can be better achieved through robotics.


Robots have also been explored as a form of High-tech Art. The Austin Robot group and others have produced many interesting pieces such as Sparky.



Current developments


When roboticists first attempted to mimic human and animal gaits, they discovered that it was incredibly difficult; requiring more computational power than what was available at the time. So, emphasis was shifted to other areas of research. Simple wheeled robots were used to conduct experiments in behavior, navigation, and path planning. These navigation techniques have now developed into commercially available autonomous robot control systems; the most sophisticated examples of autonomous navigation control systems now available include the commercial/industrial ARCS laser-based navigation system from ActivMedia/MobileRobots and the home/consumer-oriented VSLAM-based NorthStar system.


When engineers were ready to attempt walking robots again, they started small with hexapods and other multi-legged platforms. These robots mimicked insects and arthropods in both form and function. The trend towards these body types offer immense flexibility and proven adaptability to any environment. With more than four legs, these robots are statically stable which makes them easier to work with. Even though significant progress towards bipedal locomotion in robots has been made only recently, in just 4 years after the introduction of Asimo bipedal robots such as KHR-1 that cost only $1300 became available.



Robot hand


Robot hand holding an egg



Another technical problem preventing wider adoption of robots is the complexity of handling physical objects in the inherently chaotic natural environment. Tactile sensors and better vision algorithms may solve this problem. Librarian robot from University Jaume I in Spain is a good example of current progress in this field.


Recently, tremendous progress has been made in medical robotics, with two companies in particular, Computer Motion and Intuitive Surgical, receiving regulatory approval in North America, Europe and Asia for their robots to be used in minimal invasive surgical procedures. Laboratory automation is also a growing area. Here, benchtop robots are used to transport biological or chemical samples between instruments such as incubators, liquid handlers and readers. Other places where robots are likely to replace human labour are in deep-sea exploration and space exploration. For these tasks, arthropod body types are generally preferred. Mark W. Tilden formerly of Los Alamos National Laboratories specializes in cheap robots with bent but unjointed legs, while others seek to replicate the full jointed motion of crabs' legs.


Experimental winged robots and other examples exploiting biomimicry are also in early development. So-called "nanomotors" and "smart wires" are expected to drastically simplify motive power, while in-flight stabilization seems likely to be improved by extremely small gyroscopes. A significant driver of this work is military research into spy technologies.



Future prospects


Some scientists believe that robots will be able to approximate human-like intelligence in the first half of the 21st century. Even before such theoretical intelligence levels are obtained, it is speculated that robots may begin to replace humans in many labor-intensive career fields. The cybernetics pioneer Norbert Wiener discussed some of these issues in his book The human use of human beings (1950), in which he speculated that robots taking over human jobs may initially lead to growing unemployment and social turmoil, but that in the medium-term it might bring increased material wealth to people in most nations.


Robotics will probably continue its spread in offices and homes, replacing "dumb" appliances with smart robotic equivalents. Domestic robots capable of performing many household tasks, described in science fiction stories and coveted by the public in the 1960s, are likely to be eventually perfected.


There is likely to be some degree of convergence between humans and robots. Many humans are already cyborgs with some body parts and even parts of the nervous system replaced by artificial analogues. In many cases the same technology might be used both in robotics and in medicine.









Dean Kamen, Founder of FIRST, and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) created a competitive forum that inspires in young people, their schools and communities an appreciation of science and technology.


Their Robotics Competition is a multinational competition that teams professionals and young people to solve an engineering design problem in an intense and competitive way. In 2003 the competition will reach more than 20,000 students on over 800 teams in 24 competitions. Teams come from Canada, Brazil, the U.K., and almost every U.S. state. Unlike the Robot sumo wrestling competitions that take place regularly in some venues, or the Battlebots competitions on TV, these competitions include the creation of the robot.


RoboCup is a competitive organization dedicated to developing a team of fully autonomous humanoid robots that can win against the human world soccer champion team by the year 2050. There are many different leagues from simulation, to full-size humanoid.  The DARPA Grand Challenge was a competition for robotic vehicles to complete an under-300 mile, off-road course in the Mojave Desert.


The two AAAI Grand Challenges focus on Human Robot Interaction, with one being a robot attending and delivering a conference talk, the other being operator-interaction challenges in rescue robotics.  The Centennial Challenges are NASA prize contests for non-government funded technological achievements, including robotics, by US citizens.


The popularity of the TV shows Robot Wars and Battlebots, of college level robot-sumo wrestling competitions, the success of "smart bombs" and UCAVs in armed conflicts, grass-eating "gastrobots" in Florida, and the creation of a slug-eating robot in England, suggest that the fear of an artificial life form doing harm, or competing with natural wild life, is not an illusion. The worldwide Green Parties in 2002 were asking for public input on extending their existing policies against such competition, as part of more general biosafety and biosecurity concerns. It appears that, like Aldous Huxley's concerns about human cloning, questions Karel Capek raised eighty years earlier in science fiction have become real debates.



Possible dangers


The concern that robots might displace or compete with humans is common. In his I, Robot series, Isaac Asimov created the Three Laws of Robotics in a literary attempt to control the competition of robots with humans:

  • A robot may not harm a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

  • A robot must obey the orders given to it by the 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.

Unfortunately the issue may be not so simple to resolve. Asimov himself based the plots of quite a few robots novels on probing into the applicability and sufficiency of the Three Laws. The laws or rules that could or must apply to robots or other "autonomous capital" in cooperation or competition with humans have spurred investigation of macro-economics of this competition, notably by Alessandro Acquisti building on much older work by John von Neumann.


Even without overt malicious programming, robots and humans simply do not have the same body tolerances or awarenesses, leading to accidents: In Jackson, Michigan on July 21, 1984, a factory robot crushed a worker against a safety bar in apparently the first robot-related death in the United States.





Class of robots

  • Autonomous research robots

    • Humanoid robots

    • Differential wheeled robots

    • Ludobots: play/entertainment robots, like SONY's Aibo 'dogbot'

    • BEAM robotics

  • Service robots

  • Domestic robots

  • Military robots

  • Arthropod robots

  • Social robots

  • Industrial robots

    • Laboratory robotics

  • Educational Robotics, like LEGO Mindstorms


Subresearch field within robotic

  • Behavior based robotics and Subsumption architecture

  • Biomorphic robotics

  • Evolutionary robotics

  • Robot control

  • Robot kinematics


Geneva University, Switzerland, conference on robotics






Research field which use robots or are linked to robotic


Events related to robotic

  • RoboCup: Robot competition

  • Robot Hall of Fame


Additional robot topics




Prototype frame for a giant robot insect ant to be used in special effects for a film version of 'Sectasaur' the adventure story by Jameson Hunter. IP rights acquired by Blueplanet Universal Holdings Ltd, February 2013.



World's largest robot ant


Animatronic artwork for a giant robot insect ant to be used in special effects for a film version of 'Sectasaur' the adventure story by Jameson Hunter. IP rights acquired by Blueplanet Universal Holdings Ltd, December 2015.



Famous roboticists




Media coverage and articles


General information and non-profit organizations


Commercial projects

  • – Technical information on robotics, with a list of suppliers

  • The Robofolio ( – Build robots to order

  • ( – Site about robotics, news, events and articles in English and Spanish

  • Rhino Robotics ( – Manufacturer of educational robots

  • ( – Site for professional roboticists, robotics programmers & researchers

  • Robot Information Central ( – Link directory at a commercial site

  • Robot Universe ( – Link directory at a commercial site

  • ( – Pay per click directory of links with some items related to robotics







The robots exclusion standard or robots.txt protocol is a convention to prevent well-behaved web spiders and other web robots from accessing all or part of a website. The information specifying the parts that should not be accessed is specified in a file called robots.txt in the top-level directory of the website.


The robots.txt protocol is purely advisory, and relies on the cooperation of the web robot, so that marking an area of your site out of bounds with robots.txt does not guarantee privacy. Many web site administrators have been caught out trying to use the robots file to make private parts of a website invisible to the rest of the world. However the file is necessarily publicly available and is easily checked by anyone with a web browser.


The robots.txt patterns are matched by simple substring comparisons, so care should be taken to make sure that patterns matching directories have the final '/' character appended: otherwise all files with names starting with that substring will match, rather than just those in the directory intended.


There is also a convention for HTML meta tags that may be used to exclude robots according to the contents of web pages. Again, this is purely advisory, and also relies on the cooperation of the robot programs. For example, the HTML code for this page includes the line

For centuries humans have used their ingenuity to develop machines capable of improving on, replacing and outperforming human physical skills. Machines have reduced the drudgery of many tasks by taking on boring jobs. But now, as robots are being given artificial intelligence, the machines are no longer limited to 'boring' jobs. Automated computer systems now trade on stock markets, run trains and even fly passenger aircraft. Some robots can now think for themselves and function independently of humans. They can even communicate with other robots on the other side of the world via the internet. Is there a danger that we giving too much control to these machines? In I, Robot, Professor Warwick considers the dangers of allowing robots too much power to develop their own artificial intelligence. But he also acknowledges that the 21st century - the 'cyber century', as it has been called - is a very exciting time for science. How far can we go with cyborgs? Only the future will tell.


Since it was founded in 1799, the Royal Institution has worked to make science more widely understood and appreciated by the general public. Its laboratories have also been home to many of the world's scientific pioneers and their discoveries. They include Michael Faraday who, among other things, invented the first electric motor, dynamo and transformer; Sir Humphrey Davy who discovered sodium, potassium, barium, calcium and magnesium; and Sirs William and Lawrence Bragg who pioneered the use of X-rays to investigate the structure of crystals.

Many of these eminent scientists spoke about and demonstrated their discoveries at lectures given in the Ri's famous lecture theatre. The Christmas Lectures, aimed specifically at young people, were begun in 1826 by Michael Faraday and continue to this day. The year 2000 saw Professor Kevin Warwick address the subject of robotics.



TV Who's Professor Kevin Warwick?

Dr Kevin Warwick is Professor of Cybernetics at the University of Reading in the UK. His main interest is research into artificial intelligence, control and robotics. He took his first degree at Aston University when he was 22 and followed it up with a PhD at Imperial College, London. Kevin has held positions at Oxford, Newcastle and Warwick Universities before he became a professor at Reading when he was 32.

Kevin has published over 300 research papers and his latest paperback, 'In the Mind of the Machine' gives a stark warning of a future in which machines are more intelligent than humans. He has been awarded higher doctorates both by Imperial College and the Czech Academy of Sciences.









In 1998 Kevin shocked the international scientific community by having a silicon chip transponder surgically implanted in his left arm. A series of further implant experiments is now planned in which Kevin's nervous system will be linked to a computer.

Broadcast date: 26 December 2000

Anatomy of an Android investigates the way robots have been developed to assist humans. But as the level of sophistication of these robots rockets ahead are we humans being left behind? The machines we have designed and built are taking on more and more tasks for themselves. If we have designed robots to be better, faster and stronger than us, who will be best suited to thrive in the technological world of the future? The adventure begins with perhaps the most famous robots of all - Androids - machines built in the image of the human body. If such machines have a number of physical advantages over humans, and can think for themselves, what does this mean for the future of the human race?



Broadcast date: 27 December 2000

How can we endow robots with 'intelligence'? The first step is to equip them with robot senses, so they can hear, smell and feel the world around them - along with the humans who they will have to work around. In this lecture we'll explore what it must be like for a robot to 'see' using ultrasonic sound; we'll learn what it is like to live with a new breed of robot dogs, and meet the smart robot vacuum cleaner that can map and clean any room without human assistance; we'll challenge a robot to solve a maze, meet the robots that are reorganising work on the factory floor, and come face to face with Japan's latest attempt to construct a robot face that can react to our moods or conversation by smiling, sulking, winking or blushing.



a robot snake  Hexapods make excellent robots



Broadcast date: 28 December 2000


Humans may be intelligent and adaptable but there are environments which are simply too dangerous for the human body to cope with. There are some procedures which are too complex for us to perform or need a level of precision which humans just don't possess. Clearly, in these situations robots are our best allies. But there is a new breed of robots, which not only venture into these environments but work tirelessly and precisely, hour after hour. In Remote Robots we meet the robots that can defuse bombs, travel to distant planets or perform complex surgery on a patient on the other side of the world. We also link, live via satellite, to the virtual reality assisted robot astronaut which will control space shuttle missions in the future.

Broadcast date: 29 December 2000



What are cyborgs and what would they look like? Would they resemble Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Terminator or might they be more like The Borg from Star Trek? Are they just science fiction or are they already here?



a robot with tracks

Image courtesy of NASA/JPL/Caltech



Some of the answers in BIONIC BODIES might surprise you - cyborgs are not just possible, but a reality! After all, many humans are already being fitted with machines which help them to live normal lives, things like replacement limbs, heart pacemakers, cochlea implants for the deaf, even an electronic 'eye' for blind people. These men and women are technically, cyborgs! But what of the rest of us? Would you want to be a cyborg of the future? Well you may well have the chance! Microchips are being developed which can deliver medicine in precise amounts, they can be put onto clothes or jewellery as wearable computers. We don't want to reveal too many secrets, but did you know that Professor Kevin Warwick was once a cyborg himself?




Royal Institution logoClick here for the Royal Institution website  The 2000 Lectures

Find out about the 2000 Royal Institution Christmas Lectures - Rise of the Robots!. They were given by former cyborg Professor Kevin Warwick, Head of the Department of Cybernetics at Reading University.


Robot Construction  Robot News  Science and Technologies

Give your robot a head start by checking the science and technology right here. Much of the information relates to the Physics, Design & Technology and Biology schools curriculum for 11 - 16 year olds.



  • Radio Modules - Suppliers of ISM band miniature radio modules and cable free data links.

  • Microrobot - Manufacturer of high quality robotics kits, their robots are also featured on this site.

  • Yost Engineering - Software and hardware development company

  • Rogue Robotics - Manufactures of high quality robotics kits & accessories

  • Sensory Inc - Market leaders in speech recognition products

  • Elproducts - Chuck Hellebuyck's official website 

  • - Manufacturer of the Mark III Robot

  • Handy Board - The MIT Handy Board System

  • - BasicX family of rapid development microcontrollers

  • Solutions3 - Advanced Motion Control Products & accessories

  • Hobby Engineering - Well thought out site specializing in hobby robotics & electronics

  • Robot Books - Great selection of robot books and educational toy

  • K Team - Developers of autonomous mobile robots

  • RoboFesta - Promoting interest in robotics, science & technology throughout Europe

  • Dontronics - Atmel/AVR & PICmicro Hardware and Software

  • Generation5 - AI, Robotics, Reviews

  • Battle Bricks - Robotic combat sports using lego mindstorm

  • RURobots - Specialists in Advanced Robotics and Cognitive Science Research

  • Serv-O-Link - Manufacturer of precision plastic spur gears, sprockets & drive chains

  • the-gadgeteer - Reviews on the latest gadgets, product information and interesting links

  • Neatstuff - Great site for Vintage Toy Robots, Collectibles and Antiques

  • Enigma Industries - Tools for building robotic R/C type drive trains like those used in Robot Wars

  • Dale Robots - Supplier of low cost robotics components in the United States

  • Celestial Horizons - Embedded systems software & hardware made easy!

  • Robot Art - Superb Tin Toy Robot Illustrations by Karl Egenburger

  • BattleBots - Meet the battlebots team and see their great collection of robots

  • Android World - Interesting site dedicated to androids plus lots of robot links

  • Battery Mart - Robot Batteries, Camcorder and Sealed Lead Acid Batteries

  • Abe Howell - Supplier of low cost educational robotics kits and components

  • Robodyssey - Manufactures robotics kits plus components for educators and hobbyist

  • Alan's Model & RC Links - Directory of Radio Control Aircraft, Yachts, Boats & Cars web sites

  • Micromouse - Micromouse Information Centre (Cannock Technical College) – Great Info & Links

  • Kidstuff - Creative robot workshops

  • Pad2Pad - Make & order your own electronic designs (inc. components) via the Internet!

  • Learn About Robots - Robotics news and learning resources

  • Robotics India - Robotics community magazine covering a wide range of interests

  • Saelig Company Inc - High quality Industrial control and instrumentation in the USA

  • Electric Motors Design - Info. on AC motors, DC motors, stepper motors and servo motors.

  • LPRS - Manufacturers of stressfree wireless radio solutions.

  • Robotic Systems - Educational Robotics - UK Data Acquisition Products Supplier.

A new Wired article discusses the problem Hollywood seems to have with robots and technology in general. They seem to make a large number of movies in which technology in general and robots in particular are evil. Artist Fernando Orellana, among others, thinks Hollywood is wrong. Orellana has created a kinetic art piece called Unending Enclosure for the Art & Artificial Life International Competition that offers an alternate view of three robots that are frightened of humans.


IBM has posted a new developerWorks article on wireless robotics. The article explains some of the uses of wireless robotics - either human control of non-autonomous robots or for inter-robot communication between cooperative autonomous robots. It further breaks cooperative robots in marsupial teams where there is a mother-child relationship and competitive teams such as RoboCup soccer robots. A list of pitfalls that may be encountered when using WiFi for wireless robotics is also provided.











14 in 1 SOLAR ROBOT KIT - A solar powered robot kit for ages 10+ 


BIROB CHEETAH EPFL - Claimed to be the fastest quadruped robot cat @ June 2013





Bluefish - Bluebird Marine's autonomous boat development program


CMTI - Centre for Maritime Technology and Innovation - Autonomous Study


FishPi - An autonomous boat project to prove the capability of the Raspberry computer to navigate a vessel for long distances.


INDAGATUS - Small endurance UMV platform 


Microtransat - Competition for autonomous sailing models


MIT Cambridge University - Controlling Drone with Mobile Phone


MONALISA - Motorways of the Sea, eco-efficient e-navigation solutions contribution to safe maritime transport


MUNIN - Maritime Unmanned Navigation through Intelligence in Networks & E-Nav International 7th Framework


OpenROV - Open source underwater robots for exploration and education.


Roboboats - Autonomous Surface Boats competition, ASVs


Robosubs - Autonomous Underwater Vessel competition AUVs


SeaNet - Robotic ocean military peacekeeping patrols


Scout Transatlantic - autonomous robot Atlantic crossing project


Sea Robotics - Unmanned systems


Slocum sea glider - Doug Webb & Henry Stommel


Snoopy Sloop - Robin Lovelock's robot sailing boat: Microtransat Trans-Atlantic competition


USNA - Roboboat competition team 2011 & 2012


University Western Australia - USAL robot sub


Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution - ABE lost at sea





SECTASAURUS -  New for 2016, Jameson Hunter is now developing the giant (bulldog) ant based special effects animatronic for this potential cult sc-fi story. Bluebird Marine Systems have been asked to look at re-making the mechanics that went missing many years ago. The object is to produce a few publicity articles and maybe give some aspiring film producers a chance to make a pilot, possibly with the help of crowd funding.




This website is copyright © 1991- 2023 Electrick Publications. All rights reserved. The bird logos and names Blueplanet Ecostar and Blue Max are trademarks ™.  The Blueplanet vehicle configuration is registered ®.  The name Solar Navigator is a registered trademark and the boat design is copyright,  All other trademarks hereby acknowledged.  Max Energy Limited is an educational charity.