Robotics - Robotics Research

Robotics Research

Further information: Open-source robotics, Evolutionary robotics, Areas of robotics, and Robotics simulator

Much of the research in robotics focuses not on specific industrial tasks, but on investigations into new types of robots, alternative ways to think about or design robots, and new ways to manufacture them but other investigations, such as MIT's cyberflora project, are almost wholly academic.

A first particular new innovation in robot design is the opensourcing of robot-projects. To describe the level of advancement of a robot, the term "Generation Robots" can be used. This term is coined by Professor Hans Moravec, Principal Research Scientist at the Carnegie Mellon University Robotics Institute in describing the near future evolution of robot technology. First generation robots, Moravec predicted in 1997, should have an intellectual capacity comparable to perhaps a lizard and should become available by 2010. Because the first generation robot would be incapable of learning, however, Moravec predicts that the second generation robot would be an improvement over the first and become available by 2020, with the intelligence maybe comparable to that of a mouse. The third generation robot should have the intelligence comparable to that of a monkey. Though fourth generation robots, robots with human intelligence, professor Moravec predicts, would become possible, he does not predict this happening before around 2040 or 2050.

The second is Evolutionary Robots. This is a methodology that uses evolutionary computation to help design robots, especially the body form, or motion and behavior controllers. In a similar way to natural evolution, a large population of robots is allowed to compete in some way, or their ability to perform a task is measured using a fitness function. Those that perform worst are removed from the population, and replaced by a new set, which have new behaviors based on those of the winners. Over time the population improves, and eventually a satisfactory robot may appear. This happens without any direct programming of the robots by the researchers. Researchers use this method both to create better robots, and to explore the nature of evolution. Because the process often requires many generations of robots to be simulated, this technique may be run entirely or mostly in simulation, then tested on real robots once the evolved algorithms are good enough. Currently, there are about 1 million industrial robots toiling around the world, and Japan is the top country having high density of utilizing robots in its manufacturing industry.

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