History of Robots, Cyborgs, and Androids Part 3
About the history and development of robots, cyborgs, and androids from ancient history to modern times.
W.W. II brought a proliferation of robot systems designed for war, which could react to stimuli and show initiative, e.g., the self-regulating antiaircraft gun director, which combined gyroscopic guidance, servomechanisms (machines that guide other machines), and analog computation.
Modern robots would not be possible without miniaturized electronic circuitry and sophisticated computer technology. Their most important component is the computer brain, housed in the robot body or elsewhere, which is programmed to perform certain tasks or react in certain ways to specific stimuli. Many have equipment which resembles human senses--television camera eyes that "see," sensors which can detect heat, pressure, or resistance, and range finders that judge distance. A mechanical arm (or arms) is mounted on a swivel joint and is further jointed so that it can move in a variety of ways. Mechanical arms employ mechanical hands, which come with opposed fingers that can grasp, grip, lift, and let go. Some robots move from place to place; others are stationary.
Robots can learn a job in a matter of minutes, choreographed by a human operator, who takes the robot through the job while playing instructions into its computer, which is on "record." Put on "replay," the robot can perform the task perfectly time after time.
Robots developed over the last 40 years have become more and more complex. Shaky Robot, which starred in two movies and was featured in articles in major magazines, was designed in 1965 by Dr. Charles Rosen of Stanford. Shaky had a built-in logic system, a three-wheel base, and a swivel head with television camera and range finder. Cat's whisker sensors on its sides helped it to avoid obstacles. It could find objects, negotiate and interpret room boundaries, make and update representations of those boundaries, push things around, and walk up and down halls. In 1973 advanced computers made Shaky obsolete, and it was retired at the age of eight.
The leaders of robot manufacture for industry, which, according to robotics expert Gene Bartczak, is an extremely fast-growing field, are the U.S., Great Britain, and Japan. In 1976, 6,000 robots were employed worldwide, 2,500 of them in the U.S.--in Ford Motor Company factories, at the Bulova Watch Company, in chemical plants, by die casters, and elsewhere. They are capable of picking up an egg or a heavy piece of steel heated to 1800 deg.. They weld, spray-paint, load and unload machinery and parts, stack bricks in layers, galvanize pails, package glassware, heat-treat parts, and perform many other jobs, largely those that are boring, dangerous, or unpleasant for humans. Able to operate for 65,000 hours, they cost from $40,000 to $60,000. People who own these robots seem to like them. Paul Pelkey of G.E. Somersworth in Somersworth, N.H. told Unimation, a leading manufacturer, "The robot doesn't have coffee breaks, and he doesn't have to quit a half hour earlier to wash up or take a shower. You talk to the robot, he just keeps on working. He just keeps running 24 hours a day." Workers tend to become fond of robots, probably because they seem all too human. Often they go berserk. One robot, while temporarily insane, began spraypainting workmen rather than auto parts, and another embarrassed its creator at an important sales demonstration by smashing itself to bits. At one Chicago factory, when their robot "Clyde the Claw" broke down, workers sent it flowers.
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