What is robotics?

Robotics is a branch of computer science and engineering that deals with designing, constructing, functioning, and use of robots. The objective of robotics is to create machines that assist humans. Robotics engineering incorporates several engineering fields such as mechanical, electrical, computer, control, software, and bioengineering.

Robots, their types and applications

Robots are machines that carry out a series of complex tasks automatically. Robots can be controlled by installing a control device within the robot or attaching it externally. Furthermore, they can be fully automatic or semi-automatic.

Robots can have any structure and are used for several purposes. However, most robots are programmed to resemble humans. Robots are also programmed to replicate human behaviors such as walking, lifting, and other human activities.

Since different types of robots are designed to perform several tasks, it gets necessary to classify robots. Below is the list of different types of robots based on their tasks:


A cobot (also known as a collaborative robot) is used for direct human-robot interaction. Such robots are used in industries to boost production levels by working together with humans. These robots are much smaller, flexible, and easier to program than industrial robots.

Industrial robots

Image of an industrial robot used for welding
CC BY 3.0 | https://commons.wikimedia.org | Phasmatisnox

Industrial robots are programmable machines used for manufacturing. They are programmed to automatically perform specific actions such as welding, painting, assembling-disassembling, lifting printed circuit boards, packaging, and testing. Generally, industrial robots consist of a robot arm, gripper, sensors, and a control unit.

Service robots

A service robot is a robot that provides services to humans. There are different types of service robots, such as:

  • Domestic robots: Such robots are used for household or domestic tasks such as window cleaning, vacuum cleaning, lawn mowing, and many more.
  • Security robots: Security robots are tasked to take care of the house when the residents are not at home. They are typically controlled using a mobile app through the internet.
  • Agriculture robots: Such robots help farmers in seeding, harvesting, and other agricultural tasks.
  • Medical robots: Nowadays, surgeons use robots in operation theaters to perform minimally invasive tasks. The use of robots in surgeries reduces the chances of human errors.

Humanoid robots

Humanoid robots are robots designed to look and function as human beings. Humanoid robots move in an upright position using two legs. Such robots need to learn artificial intelligence (AI) through participation in social life to behave exactly like human beings.

Human-machine interaction

Human-machine interactions can be used by people with no or minimal programming language knowledge. Humans can give commands to such systems in a natural manner. For instance, humans can use gestures, pass voice commands, or use facial expressions to interact with the robot. Systems that allow human-machine interactions are:

  • Voice recognition systems
  • Facial expression analysis
  • Gesture recognition systems
  • Artificial emotion recognition systems

Specialization areas in robotics

Due to the growing demand for robots, the need for expert technicians is growing day by day. As a result, the robotics field has been divided into five different specialization areas. Technicians can specialize in any of these fields and build a career from it. The specialization areas include:

  • Operator interface
  • Mobility (locomotion) 
  • Manipulators and effectors
  • Programming
  • Sensing and perception

Operator interface

The operator interface in a robot acts as a medium of communication between the robot and the human controller. Using this technique, the human controller passes pre-programmed commands to the robot. This interface should be intuitive to facilitate effective communication between the controller and robot. Technicians working in this field should create intuitive and efficient interfaces that allow proper communication.

Mobility (locomotion)

Locomotion refers to the movement that robots do to complete their tasks. Usually, robots need to move from place to place to complete their tasks, and they use various techniques such as hopping, walking, rolling, and slithering for moving. To achieve mobility, robots are trained using various techniques. Some robots have wheels, whereas some (like human robots) are trained to walk on two legs. Robotic engineers specializing in this area need to figure out how to achieve mobility in the designed robot.

Manipulators and effectors

Robots use manipulators and effectors to interact with their environment. Manipulators and effectors are the parts that enable the robot to lift, move, or manipulate objects. For instance, human robots use appendages and digits that function similarly to human hands. Similarly, industrial robots use pincers and claws to move heavy equipment.


Programming refers to the computer language that operators use to communicate with the robot—programmers program all the actions that a robot performs. Computer Programmers or users can provide real-time commands to the robot or create an autonomous robot that performs a predefined set of tasks. A single robot can be programmed using several programming languages. Hence, computer programmers looking to specialize in robotics programming need to know various programming languages.

Sensing and perception

Sensors help the robots to collect information about their surrounding environment. Depending on this information, the robot can identify the space it occupies, its location, destination, and any obstacles that will fall on its way. Using sensors, robots also decide how to respond to the object. It is essential to choose the correct sensors to ensure the proper functioning of the robot. Robotics technicians looking to build a career in this field need to have proper knowledge of the sensors.

Difference between robotics and automation

The difference between the terms robotics and automation can be clearly understood from the table below.

Robotics is a branch that deals with the designing, creating, and use of robots to carry out tasks.Automation is the process of using machines, computer software, or technologies to carry out tasks that are usually done by people.
Robots are usually designed to replicate or substitute human actions.The automation process usually involves the execution of a predefined sequence of operations.

Context and Applications

Fundamentals of robotics are an essential topic in the field of artificial intelligence. Students studying in courses related to machine learning and artificial intelligence study this concept. Some courses that cover the fundamentals of robotics topic include:

  • Bachelors in Computer Science
  • Masters in Computer Science
  • Masters in Artificial Intelligence
  • Masters in Science (Robotics and Automated Systems)

Practice Problems

Q1. What cobots are also called?

  1. Collaborative robots
  2. Factory-wide rabaties
  3. Collaborative Harry H.
  4. Cologne robots

Answer: Option a

Explanation: Cobots are also known as collaborative robots.

Q2. Which interface acts as a communication medium between the controller and robot?

  1. Artificial intelligence
  2. Operator interface
  3. User interaction
  4. Fundamentals interface

Answer: Option b

Explanation: The operator interface acts as a medium of communication between the robot and the human controller.

Q3. Which of these systems allow human-machine interactions?

  1. Kinematics computers
  2. Voice recognition systems
  3. Manipulating robotics engineering
  4. Robotics books computers

Answer: Option b

Explanation: Voice recognition systems, facial expression analysis, face recognition, and gesture recognition systems allow human-machine interactions.

Q4. Why do robots use sensors?

  1. For rabaties entertainment
  2. For factory-wide playing
  3. For collecting information
  4. For interacting with Harry H. Humans

Answer: Option c

Explanation: Robots use sensors to collect information about their environment.

Q5. Which robots are used to perform household tasks?

  1. Industrial
  2. Harry H. security
  3. Domestic
  4. Robotics books

Answer: Option c

Explanation: Domestic robots perform household chores like vacuum cleaning and window cleaning.

Common Mistakes

Students consider the concepts of robotics, robots, and automation as the same, but it is not valid. All these terms are different, so they should not be used interchangeably.

  • Dynamics and kinematics
  • Educational robotics
  • Cloud robotics
  • Autonomous robots

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