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Origin of Robotics, History of Automation and Modern Robots

Robotics is the science and the study of robots. It deals with the design, construction, operation, and application of robots, as well as computer systems for their control and sensory feedback.

The word ‘robot’ means any man-made machine that can perform work or other actions normally performed by humans, either automatically, or by remote control.

The workers of that factory never rested. They never ate, never slept, or complained about anything. Work, work and more work … round the clock. But one day, they came out, led a revolution against their masters, and humbled Man.

These workers were robots, a figment of the author Karel Capek’s imagination from his 1920 play “R.U.R.“. However, in 1960, fiction became reality when the first real-life robot made its appearance.  Since then, robots have influenced human life tremendously.

Robotics

Robotics

Today, there are robots smart enough to defeat a world chess champion like Gary Kasparov. The robot Deep Blue OIice did it! This post will make fascinating revelations about the world of robots.

Most robots today are used to do repetitive actions or jobs considered too dangerous for humans. Robots can be made to look like humans or animals, but this is not always the case. Industrial robots, for example, do not have a human form at all, but they do the jobs that human beings used to do previously. Robots can be big, small, or very, very tiny.

Role of Robotics

Robotics is a fascinating new field of study, and a rapidly growing one too, as robots are being used more and more in different fields, including industry, research labs, and even in homes. They are most useful in places and situations where it is dangerous for people to work, like in diffusing a bomb or working in mines.

Moreover, it is often cheaper and easier to use robots rather than humans- especially for some jobs. For example, sometimes robots are the only possible way to accomplish tasks like exploring inside gas tanks and volcanoes, or traveling on the surface of Mars!

Origin of Word ‘Robot’

‘Robot’ is actually a Czech word that means ‘slave’. The word is the brainchild of the Czech playwright, novelist, and journalist Karel Capek, who introduced it in his 1921 hit play, R.U.R., or Rossum’s Universal Robots. It tells the story of a company that uses the latest biology, chemistry, and physiology to mass-produce workers who ‘lack nothing but a soul’. The robots perform all the work that humans preferred not to do and, soon, the company is inundated with orders. In the play’s final act, the robots revolt against their human creators. In the end, two robots somehow acquire the human traits of love and compassion and go off into the sunset to make the world anew. Audiences loved the play, and soon after, robots became the darling of science fiction writers. The first digital and programmable robot was invented by George Devol.

Difference between Automation and Robots

The word ‘robot’ is a comparatively new one. Two thousand years ago, people tried to build mechanical objects that looked and moved like humans and animals. Such a machine was known as an automaton. It can perform only a single set of actions. These self-operating machines were quite common, even in ancient times.

The emperor ‘Theophilos’ palace, for example, had “lions, made either of bronze or wood covered with gold, which struck the ground with their tails and roared with open mouth and quivering tongue,” An automaton cannot change any of its movements, and has no intelligence of its own.

Today’s robots, on the other hand, have artificial intelligence, and can perform many tasks – but the fact remains that automatons are surely the ancestors of the present-day sophisticated robots.

History of Robots

History-of-Robots

Ancient Robots

It is true that robots are a modern phenomenon, but they have existed in some form, since ancient times. Robots have been mentioned in mythology too. It is said that a Greek god called Hephaestus made robot-like models to help him in his workshop. It is known that self-operating machines did exist in Ancient China, Greece, and Egypt, and some of them resembled animals or humans. Of course, there weren’t any electronics or stuff like that involved in these – ancient people simply used mechanical principles they already knew about. The Ancient Chinese are also known to have created mechanical birds, phoenixes, and magpies. Though made of wood, some of these creations could be made to pretend to eat, chirp, and warble like real birds!

History of Modern Robotics

The history of modern robotics begins with the Industrial Revolution, which ushered in an era of complex mechanics, and the use of electricity. This, in turn, led to the invention of power machines with small compact motors. The first robots were simple fixed machines, capable of performing manufacturing tasks which allowed production without the need for human assistance. In 1954, George Devol designed the Unimate, a robotic arm device that transported die castings in an automobile plant in the US, which started work in 1961. The 1960s saw the arrival of digitally controlled industrial robots. Robotics became a burgeoning science, large investments were made, and robotics spread to Japan, South Korea, and many parts of Europe rapidly.

Humanoid Robots

Leonardo Da Vinci designed and built the first known humanoid robot around 1495. Humanoid robots are built to resemble human beings. Da Vinci’s robot was an armored knight that could sit up, wave its arms, and move its head while opening and closing its jaw. By the 18th century, elaborate mechanical dolls were able to write short phrases, play musical instruments, and perform other simple, life-like acts.

The first-ever exhibited humanoid robot was ‘Eric’. It was invented by W.H. Richards in 1928 and was exhibited at the Society of Model Engineers in London. In the 1939 and 1940 World’s Fairs, the Westinghouse Electric Corporation exhibited the tall motor man Elektro. Humanoid in appearance, it could drive on wheels in the feet, play recorded speech, blow up balloons, and move its head and arms.

Elektro was controlled by 48 electrical relays and could respond to voice commands. In 1973, the construction of a human-like robot was started at the Waseda University in Tokyo. Wabot-1 was the first full-scale humanoid robot able to walk on two legs. It could also communicate with a person in Japanese. Honda’s Asimo robot was built to capture the public imagination and show off the company’s technical prowess.

First Autonomous Robots

William Grey Walter built some of the first robotic turtles in the 1940s. They were named Elmer and Elsie and were called robotic turtles because of their shape and slow movement. They were the first electronic autonomous robots.

These domed mechanized devices on wheels twirled and gyrated, avoided obstacles, backed away from the edges of their enclosure, and trundled purposefully towards a light source beamed in their direction. They were also capable of finding their way to a recharging station when they ran low on battery power.

The tortoises of William Grey Walter marked the beginnings of artificial intelligence, and of machines which simulated human thought and behavior, and therein lies their importance.

Unimate – First Industrial Robot

The concept for Unimate was developed by inventor George Devol. General Motors bought the device, installing it on an assembly line in 1961. The original Unimate consisted of a large computer-like box, joined to another box, and was connected to an arm, with systematic tasks stored in a drum memory.

The first robotic arm was installed at the General Motors plant for lifting and stacking hot metal parts. Unimate was the first digitally operated and programmable robot, and it laid the foundations of the modern robotics industry. Soon, a variety of other tasks were also performed by robots, and Unimate industrial robots became one of the most widely used industrial robots in the world.

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Biography

How Larry Page and Sergey Brin Founded Google!

Google

Not many wings of the Internet have been as influential as Google, the most successful search engine in the history of information technology. Its popularity is such that the very term ‘google’ has entered our common parlance.

For any doubt regarding anything under and above the Sun, one seeks to ‘google’ it up. This is thanks to Google’s founders, Larry Page, and Sergey Brin. Lawrence Page or Larry Page, the American computer scientist, was a research student at Stanford University when he co-founded Google Inc.

The search engine he developed, listed results on any query, according to the importance of the pages. Google was named after ‘googol’, a mathematical term. Since its introduction, Google has been the most popular search engine, receiving around five billion searches daily.

Page, who was the CEO of the firm, was ranked 17 on Forbes’ List of the Most Powerful People, in 2013. In August 2015, Page and Brin created ‘Alphabet’, a new parent company to oversee Google and its subsidiaries.

Page is now the CEO of the new venture. Page is also the inventor of Page Rank, Google’s search ranking algorithm. As of September 2020, Page was the 13th-richest person in the world, with a net worth of $65.4 billion, according to Forbes.

Larry Page

Larry Page was born on March 26th, 1973 in Michigan to Gloria and Carl Page. His father was a professor in computer science at Michigan State University, and his mother was an instructor in computer programming at Lyman Briggs College.

Quite naturally, their son grew up with a special interest in computer technology in the midst of books and magazines on the subject. Even during his schooldays, Page had been a gifted student who became the first one to turn in as an assignment from a word processor.

Larry Page

Larry Page

After schooling, he attended the University of Michigan for BS in computer engineering, and later, also secured an MS in the same subject from Stanford University. At Stanford, Page met his fellow research-er Sergey Brin, with whom he built a search engine called BackRub.

In 1998, the duo launched its major project ‘Google’. The years that followed witnessed Google branching out to form new projects, including the social networking site Orkut, Google Desktop Search, Google Maps, etc.

Sergey Brin

Soviet-born American computer scientist and entrepreneur Sergey Mikhaylovich Brin is one of the two founders of Google. He was born on August 21st, 1973 in Moscow to Michael Brin, a mathematician, and Eugenia Brin, a scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre.

The family migrated to the US when Sergey Brin was six. The brilliant student that he was, Brin studied mathematics and computer science after high school. He graduated from the University of Maryland. It was during his Ph.D. studies that he met Larry Page, a fellow researcher, with whom Brin worked to create Google. Later, Google subsidiaries too came up.

Sergey Brin

Sergey Brin

Brin was awarded an honorary MBA from the IE Business School for his work and is a recipient of the Marconi Foundation Prize. His Internet entrepreneurship also helped Brin to enter the world’s billionaires list.

As of September 2020, Brin is the 16th-richest person in the world, with an estimated net worth of US$63.7 billion. Sergey Brin stepped down as president of Alphabet, the parent company of Google, in December 2019 but remains a controller shareholder and a board member.

Introduction of Google

The story behind the birth of the world’s biggest search engine is not a simple one. There was much hard work and effort behind it, revealed in the lives of its founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin. It was initially conceived as a research project when the two were pursuing their Ph.D. at Stanford University.

As the name suggested, Google had to contain a vast amount of data that was to be explored by its users. The company Google Inc. had a very humble beginning and was opened in a rented garage in Menlo Park, California. With an initial amount of around one million dollars, Page and Brin set up the company at ‘Googleplex’ in California in 1998.

However, their hard work did pay off, and by 2013, Google became the most sought after search engine, with an average of five million searches in a day. The company also expanded to create multiple projects including Orkut, Google Maps, Google Reader, iGoogle, Google Earth, Google Apps, etc.

The popular mobile operating system Android was also developed by Google. In August 2015, the announcement of a new parent company ‘Alphabet Inc’ was made, and subsequently, Page and Brin moved to work on the new venture. Following this, Indian American computer scientist Sundar Pichai was made the CEO of Google.

 

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Biography

Steve Jobs and Story of the Apple Company | Biography

Inspring-story-of-Steve-Jobs

Very few computer wizards in the world have been as popular as Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple. Beyond the world of technology, Jobs had donned the roles of a humanitarian, philanthropist, and environmentalist thereby influencing people worldwide.

Steve Jobs Biography

Steve Jobs was born on February 24th, 1955, in California, to two graduate students at the University of Wisconsin. The couple gave him up for adoption, and Steve was since then taken care of by Paul Jobs, a coast guard veteran, and his wife Clara, an accountant.

In his new family, Steve was brought up well, although he was different from the children of his age. As a young boy, he worked in the family garage and proved his mechanical skills. After schooling, Steve joined the Reed College in Portland, only to drop out within months.

He then attended creative classes, including a course in calligraphy. By 1974, Jobs landed a job as a video game designer, but again gave it up, and traveled to India to gain spiritual enlightenment. He was deeply interested in Zen Buddhism.

At a time when computers were just too expensive for the common man to use, Steve Jobs, along with Steve Wozniak, and Ronald Wayne founded Apple Computers Inc. in April 1976. Their first workspace was in the garage of Jobs’ Los Altos home.

Revolution in Technology

Their only aim was to develop and sell personal computers to the common public. Till then, home computers were too expensive for the common man. With their innovation, Jobs and his partners stirred a revolution and democratized computer technology. The following year, Jobs and Wozniak released Apple II, stirring the microcomputer revolution.

First Apple Mac Computer with Keyboard

First Apple Mac Computer with Keyboard

The growth of the company had been very fast, and under Jobs’ leadership, it introduced the Macintosh 128k computer in 1984, the first PC featuring an integral graphical user interface and a mouse.

In 1985, he resigned from Apple and began a new company known as the NeXT Inc. But by December 1997, Apple Inc. purchased NeXT Inc. for millions and Steve was back in the home-firm.

In 1998, the all-in-one iMac computer was released – the first machine to get rid of the floppy disc drive and introduce a CD ROM slot. These computers also drew attention to their style and design.

In 1999, the iBook that came with WiFi technology entered the market. The years that followed witnessed Apple introducing many gadgets like the iPod, iPhone, iPad, etc. For his outstanding contributions, Steve Jobs won many awards.

On October 5th, 2011 he died of cancer, creating a void in the world of technology that cannot be filled. Today, Apple Inc is perhaps the largest information technology company for its revenue and assets. It is also known to be the third-largest mobile manufacturer company followed by Samsung and Huawei.

From the US, its customer circle has expanded all over the world. Macintosh, Apple Lisa, Apple Dot Matrix Printer, Apple Mouse Ilc, etc, were among the first products of the company. Since then, Apple has developed a wide range of attractive devices including the iPad, iPhone, iPod, MacBook, etc.

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History

Introduction to Nanotechnology | Origin and History

Introduction to Nanotechnology

In nanotechnology, a ‘nanometre’ is a billionth of a meter, and each nanometre is only three to five atoms wide. Things on this scale cannot be seen even with ordinary microscopes. Objects this small require a special tool called a scanning probe microscope. This term has an origin from the Greek word “nano” which stands for “dwarf”.

“Why can’t we write all the 24 volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica on the head of a pin?” This question, raised by the great scientist Richard Feynman, became the cradle for a revolutionary idea – the technology of the future – the first introduction to nanotechnology. It is the study and control of matter at the nanoscale, rearranging atoms and molecules. Nanotechnology has made marvelous contributions in many diverse fields, ranging from computer science to medical science.

Introduction to Nanotechnology

Nanotechnology is a wonderful new technology in which scientists rearrange atoms and molecules of matter to nano specifications. Or, to put it differently, the use and control of tiny matter is called nanotechnology.

The tiny matter is referred to as nanoparticles. These particles are measured in nanometres. The matter at the nanoscale has different properties from the same matter in bulk form.

In modern times, nanotechnology has become increasingly important. It has many uses from developing sports equipment to medical applications and is a faster, cheaper, and better technology for use in many applications.

Origin and History

Microscopes have played an important role in the development of nanotechnology. Nanoscientists need high-powered microscopes to see the surface features of nanoparticles. In fact, microscopes have played an important role in opening the door to modern nanotechnology.

Beginning as early as the 1930s, scientists were able to see the nanoparticles using instruments like the electron microscope. The electron microscope was first developed by German engineers Ernest Ruska and Max Knoll in 1932.

Electron microscopes yield much greater resolution than the older light microscopes. The most recent and notable developments in microscopy are the scanning tunneling microscope and the atomic force microscope.

The first important milestone in nanotechnology occurred in 1985 with the invention of ‘bucky-ball’ or Carbon 60 molecule, by a group of scientists. A buckyball is a molecule called Buckminsterfullerene. It is made up of 60 carbon atoms formed in the shape of a hollow ball.

Buckyball Nanotechnology

The story of buckyballs begins in the laboratory of British astronomer cum chemist Harold Kroto. Looking at ‘red giant’ stars billions of miles away, Kroto was puzzled by the long chains of carbon atoms that his instruments told him these stars emitted.

Later, he joined American scientist Richard Smalley and Robert Curl, who were studying similar chains or clusters of atoms in the laboratory. Together, they devised instruments to study these clusters. They put carbon in a helium-filled chamber and vaporized it with a laser.

The resulting carbon molecules held exactly 60 carbon atoms, arranged into a roughly spherical shape and was called buckyball, because of its shape that resembles a football. Kroto, Curl, and Smalley were awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1996, for this great discovery.

In 1988, some scientists proved that it is possible to move atoms and molecules in a planned manner. The next important step was the invention of the carbon nanotube in 1991.

Nanotube

A carbon nanotube is a giant molecule of carbon atoms that has a cylindrical framework with a radius of about a nanometre. This is where its name comes from. Nanotubes are categorized as single-walled nanotubes and multiwalled nanotubes.

A single-walled carbon nanotube is one hundred times stronger than steel. With their extraordinary strength and a fascinating knack for conducting electricity and heat, nanotubes are finding applications in everything from cancer treatments to hydrogen cars.

These structures of carbon may be tiny-a nanotube’s diameter is about 10,000 times smaller than a human hair-but their impact on science and technology has been enormous.

Since then, nanotechnology has made it possible to manufacture lighter, stronger, and programmable materials that require less energy to produce, than conventional materials.

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