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Introduction

Like nanotechnology, robotics is the use of technology to design and manufacture (intelligent) machines, built for specific purposes, programmed to perform specific tasks.

However, unlike nanomachines, robots are very visible machines, ranging from small, miniature machines, to large crane size constructions with intelligence varying from simple programming to perform mechanical tasks, such as painting a car or lifting cargo, to highly complex reasoning algorithms mimicking human thought

Industry and military robots

Most robots are used in industry today, manufacturing cars, appliances, and serving in places which are hazardous to people, for example nuclear plants and chemical factories. The military has seen a marked increase since 2000 in their use of semi-autonomous robots such as surveillance drones, mine sweepers and deep sea reconnaissance. In these areas robots excel where humans have -severe- difficulty.

Domestic robot helpers

More mundane applications are robot cleaners, such as vacuum cleaners, which are now seeing its appearance in the market place. They are still too expensive, costing between US$3000 and US$5000, but once other manufacturers start selling their own versions and the technology becomes commonplace prices will come down.

And so there are many uses for robots around the house andgarden. However, the idea of a toaster telling you you cannot have your toast because it is not toasted to specifications may not appeal to everyone, so a fully robotic kitchen may not be everyone's dream of convenience, at least not if you have to argue with it every day.

 But that doesn't mean my kitchen oven can't be autonomous in ordering and preparing the food you select, or that the house warms up on cold mornings, draws a bath and makes coffee and breakfast for you while you do your morning exercises or other more important things - like staying in bed another half hour. Robots should be here to serve us.

Agricultural robot helpers

The debate whether to employ robots on farms and orchards is ethical, growers have now reached a point where the security of having labor available to do the picking whenever it is needed has outweighed the insecurity of relying on (il)legal migrant labor.

Some have now invested in the development of robot fruit pickers to ensure picking is done.

Labor unions protest these developments but farming robots are a logical development in today's uncertain climate of migrant labor and its costs.

Societal integration

The integration of robots in society is well on its way, however, with many robots already in use. While the mechanical advances of robots is fairly well developed the main focus is now on robot control software - the brain of the robot.

Before robots can be freely integrated in society the infrastructure for them needs to be developed as well. No robot can be fully autonomous without a facility somewhere where it can go to recharge or repair itself.

On a recreational level, robots are fun to build and there are already plenty of kits out there. It's a growing hobby and possibilities are endless, so don't wait for the big industries to come up with all the ideas, make your own robots.

The popular Robot Wars are another sample of hobby robots built for a single use.

Especially in the Star Wars series are robots (droids) prevalent and fully integrated in all levels of society - as scientists, mechanics, waiters, guards and soldiers, servants and so on.

It will be a long time before robots will be as much part of our society as it is in the Star Wars universe but the usefulness of robots in various situations is becoming clearer and more pronounced. As they prove their usefulness to us by doing work humans refuse or find too hazardous, acceptance of robots in society will also broaden.

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