Let's Make Robots!

What is a robot?

Attempts to help people understand what a robot is.


Before you all wonder why I'm posting this here, let me clarify. From what I've noticed, most people don't actually seem to know what a robot is. Many people think all robots are humanoid, and have the ability to eat people! I've created a post at Squidoo to help dispel some of the myths and let people know what a robot actually is. Currently, searching for "what is a robot" doesn't return particularly helpful answers so I'd quite like to get this to the top of Google.

Here's the link: What is a robot?

If you don't think I should have this up here, please tell me and I'll take it down :) Likewise, if you think it's a good article, feel free to spread the link :P



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Check the motion detection robot link on your website. It directs to /dev/null .

Thanks, I'd missed the http:// somehow.


Hey.. this is the Gwünderer. Thanks for the honour!

I can see where some people would think that but I think that robots are cool as long as they are in proper working order. The technology is going to get a lot better as time goes on as well.

One common misconseption is that VEX are robots.

VEX are ROVs!

Remotely Operated Vehicle


Autonomusly Operated Vehicle


Uh. . .there are some programmable modules for Vex that give it intelligence and autonomy.  But the software is closed, proprietary and strictly licensed.  By the time I got around to actually doing anything with it, I ran through my three installs.  Cretins.

Oh well.  I've been getting much more accomplished with an Arduino and a handful of servos.  The Vex sensors and servos work well with them too.

In my opinion, the closer machines mimick nature, the more robotic they are in my eye. For now I like to say a true "robot" does not exist using my definition. I am waiting on a mechanical/electrical organism. Until then, we are just creating smart machines :). The word "machine" is used normally to describe something with function, something that is useful. I think a "robot" in the future could end up to be useless. It would be a word to differentiate between our artifically created non-organic life forms and the stuff we call "life" now.


In my humble opinion, defining characteristics of a robot is the ability to sense at least some aspects of its environment and modify it's behavior based on perceived information.  A time lapse camera would not be a robot, but a camera that takes a picture when it senses movement could be.

But as you dig deeper into concepts, more and more hairs tend to get split.  A washing machine is not a robot, since it merely goes through a series of timed actions.  On the other hand, if it senses water temperature, and adjusts the temperature to maintain optimal washing conditions, does that make it a robot?

With this in mind, industrial robots are automatons, rather than robots.  Unless, they're "smart" enough to recognize say, screws over washers, and find target holes no matter where they lie on the work surface.  Maybe "problem solving" should be added to my definition.

On a related note, I define "android" as an artificial human.  Which would turn Karel Capek's proto robots into androids--had the word actually been invented at the time.  And George Lucas WOULD have to muddy the water with his (copyrighted) term "droids" which gets applied to pretty much all robotic creatures in the franchise.

Jamies "giant robot" is actually an insectoid vehicle.  Oddbots robots are true robots by the way they sense what's going on around them and react.  The robots here on LMR are generally divided among robots, remote controlled vehicles, automatons and some amusing mechanical devices.

But no one's ever going to agree to all this.  The word "robot" will probably always be moving target and poorly defined.  At least until one goes to court in pursuit of rights or restitution for damages.

Use fuzzy logic and a number of sensors to determine the amount of water to be added, how dirty the clothes are and adapt water temperature based on incoming pipe temperatures. I have probably not thoroughly exhausted the ways in which a modern washer is indeed intelligent and reads sensors and adapts accordingly.

However if you ask me would I like to see somebody present a washing machine on LMR as their robot then the answer would be no and neither would I suggest renaming the washing machine the washing robot. Although I'm sure their's some marketing value in that name.

I agree with all that you have laid down as qualities that a robot should have.

So we have Sense and react and problem solving. Although we might need to split that hair into programmed problem solving and the capability to evolve problem solving methods.

As much as some machines have programmed intelligence one mustn't forget that humans themselves can be programmed or deprogrammed for particular behaviours.

But in the end what everyone really wants in a robot is a slave that can fetch us things, cook dinner and tell us the answers to the mysteries of life. Or am I the only one?


Heh.  My point exactly.  And while writing, it occurred to me that washing machines are probably getting more intelligent, but I'm long winded enough as it is.  If it said "Good morning.  Remember to use fabric softener this time."  We'd still think of it as a washing machine.

As for humans being programmed--They can also be remotely controlled.  (Galvanic Vestibular Stimulation.)

Of COURSE I want a robot slave.  Well maybe not a slave so much.  Or even a servant.  Practical can be a cart that follows you around with your heavy tool case.  (Yes I got that one from here.)  Or vacuum your floors.  (Roomba does a better job than me.  Too bad cleaning him up afterwards is more work than the original job.)  Or a car that parks itself.  (Has anyone checked out the course offerings on Udacity yet?)

Robot B9 followed Will Robinson around on his adventures and explorations.  When I can run something like Siri on Linux, and put the whole thing into a motorized box, I'll be close to the robot I've always wanted.  I want to make my own friend.