Media can only be downloaded from the desktop version of this website. For the most part, robots navigate pretty easily across open layouts. Now MIT engineers have developed a robot designed to extend a chain-like appendage flexible enough to twist and turn in any necessary configuration, yet rigid enough to support heavy loads or apply torque to assemble parts in tight spaces. When the task is complete, the robot can retract the appendage and extend it again, at a different length and shape, to suit the next task.
There, they are converted into solid material to produce, bit by bit, a supportive stem.
The house the robots built
Gears in the box then lock the chain units together and feed the chain out, unit by unit, as a rigid appendage. The team also includes MIT graduate student Emily Kamienski and visiting scholar Seiichi Teshigawara, who presented the results at the conference. While a robot may spend most of its time traversing open space, the last foot of its mission may involve more nimble navigation through tighter, more complex spaces to complete a task.
Engineers have devised various concepts and prototypes to address the last one-foot problem, including robots made from soft, balloon-like materials that grow like vines to squeeze through narrow crevices. Once the team defined the general functional elements of plant growth, they looked to mimic this in a general sense, in an extendable robot.
Within the box, they fit a system of gears and motors, which works to pull up a fluidized material — in this case, a bendy sequence of 3-D-printed plastic units interlocked with each other, similar to a bicycle chain. As the chain is fed into the box, it turns around a winch, which feeds it through a second set of motors programmed to lock certain units in the chain to their neighboring units, creating a rigid appendage as it is fed out of the box.
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In experiments, they were able to program the robot to turn around an obstacle as it extended or grew out from its base. When the chain is locked and rigid, it is strong enough to support a heavy, one-pound weight. Auto maintenance is a good example of tasks the robot could assist with, according to Kamienski. This robot could do something like that. MIT researchers have developed a robot with an extendible appendage that grows like a plant, reports Darrell Etherington for TechCrunch.
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Modular robotic technology is currently being applied in hybrid transportation,  industrial automation,  duct cleaning  and handling. Many research centres and universities have also studied this technology, and have developed prototypes. A collaborative robot or cobot is a robot that can safely and effectively interact with human workers while performing simple industrial tasks. However, end-effectors and other environmental conditions may create hazards, and as such risk assessments should be done before using any industrial motion-control application. The collaborative robots most widely used in industries today are manufactured by Universal Robots in Denmark.
Rethink Robotics —founded by Rodney Brooks , previously with iRobot —introduced Baxter in September ; as an industrial robot designed to safely interact with neighboring human workers, and be programmable for performing simple tasks. Intended for sale to small businesses, they are promoted as the robotic analogue of the personal computer.
As robots have become more advanced and sophisticated, experts and academics have increasingly explored the questions of what ethics might govern robots' behavior,  and whether robots might be able to claim any kind of social, cultural, ethical or legal rights. Vernor Vinge has suggested that a moment may come when computers and robots are smarter than humans. He calls this " the Singularity ". In , experts attended a conference hosted by the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence AAAI to discuss whether computers and robots might be able to acquire any autonomy, and how much these abilities might pose a threat or hazard.
They noted that some robots have acquired various forms of semi-autonomy, including being able to find power sources on their own and being able to independently choose targets to attack with weapons. They also noted that some computer viruses can evade elimination and have achieved "cockroach intelligence. Researchers at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute AI and Reasoning Lab in New York conducted an experiment where a robot became aware of itself, and corrected its answer to a question once it had realised this. Some experts and academics have questioned the use of robots for military combat, especially when such robots are given some degree of autonomous functions.
However, other experts question this. One robot in particular, the EATR , has generated public concerns  over its fuel source, as it can continually refuel itself using organic substances. Manuel De Landa has noted that "smart missiles" and autonomous bombs equipped with artificial perception can be considered robots, as they make some of their decisions autonomously.
He believes this represents an important and dangerous trend in which humans are handing over important decisions to machines. For centuries, people have predicted that machines would make workers obsolete and increase unemployment , although the causes of unemployment are usually thought to be due to social policy. A recent example of human replacement involves Taiwanese technology company Foxconn who, in July , announced a three-year plan to replace workers with more robots.
At present the company uses ten thousand robots but will increase them to a million robots over a three-year period. Lawyers have speculated that an increased prevalence of robots in the workplace could lead to the need to improve redundancy laws. Kevin J. Delaney said "Robots are taking human jobs. The World Bank 's World Development Report puts forth evidence showing that while automation displaces workers, technological innovation creates more new industries and jobs on balance.
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At present, there are two main types of robots, based on their use: general-purpose autonomous robots and dedicated robots. Robots can be classified by their specificity of purpose. A robot might be designed to perform one particular task extremely well, or a range of tasks less well. All robots by their nature can be re-programmed to behave differently, but some are limited by their physical form.
For example, a factory robot arm can perform jobs such as cutting, welding, gluing, or acting as a fairground ride, while a pick-and-place robot can only populate printed circuit boards. General-purpose autonomous robots can perform a variety of functions independently.
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General-purpose autonomous robots typically can navigate independently in known spaces, handle their own re-charging needs, interface with electronic doors and elevators and perform other basic tasks. Like computers, general-purpose robots can link with networks, software and accessories that increase their usefulness. They may recognize people or objects, talk, provide companionship, monitor environmental quality, respond to alarms, pick up supplies and perform other useful tasks.
General-purpose robots may perform a variety of functions simultaneously or they may take on different roles at different times of day. Some such robots try to mimic human beings and may even resemble people in appearance; this type of robot is called a humanoid robot. Humanoid robots are still in a very limited stage, as no humanoid robot can, as of yet, actually navigate around a room that it has never been in. Over the last three decades, automobile factories have become dominated by robots. A typical factory contains hundreds of industrial robots working on fully automated production lines, with one robot for every ten human workers.
On an automated production line, a vehicle chassis on a conveyor is welded , glued , painted and finally assembled at a sequence of robot stations. Industrial robots are also used extensively for palletizing and packaging of manufactured goods, for example for rapidly taking drink cartons from the end of a conveyor belt and placing them into boxes, or for loading and unloading machining centers.
Mass-produced printed circuit boards PCBs are almost exclusively manufactured by pick-and-place robots, typically with SCARA manipulators, which remove tiny electronic components from strips or trays, and place them on to PCBs with great accuracy. Mobile robots, following markers or wires in the floor, or using vision  or lasers, are used to transport goods around large facilities, such as warehouses, container ports, or hospitals. Limited to tasks that could be accurately defined and had to be performed the same way every time.
Very little feedback or intelligence was required, and the robots needed only the most basic exteroceptors sensors. The limitations of these AGVs are that their paths are not easily altered and they cannot alter their paths if obstacles block them.
If one AGV breaks down, it may stop the entire operation. Developed to deploy triangulation from beacons or bar code grids for scanning on the floor or ceiling. In most factories, triangulation systems tend to require moderate to high maintenance, such as daily cleaning of all beacons or bar codes. Also, if a tall pallet or large vehicle blocks beacons or a bar code is marred, AGVs may become lost.
Often such AGVs are designed to be used in human-free environments. They navigate by recognizing natural features. Some AGVs can create maps of their environment using scanning lasers with simultaneous localization and mapping SLAM and use those maps to navigate in real time with other path planning and obstacle avoidance algorithms.
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They are able to operate in complex environments and perform non-repetitive and non-sequential tasks such as transporting photomasks in a semiconductor lab, specimens in hospitals and goods in warehouses. For dynamic areas, such as warehouses full of pallets, AGVs require additional strategies using three-dimensional sensors such as time-of-flight or stereovision cameras.
There are many jobs which humans would rather leave to robots.