Assembly in the air: Using sound to defy gravity

Scientists at the University of Bath have levitated particles using sound in an experiment which could have applications in so-called "soft robotics" and help reveal how planets start to form.

When sand-slithering snakes behave like light waves

Desert snakes slithering across the sand at night can encounter obstacles such as plants or twigs that alter the direction of their travel. While studying that motion to learn how limbless animals control their bodies in ...

How to mass produce cell-sized robots

Tiny robots no bigger than a cell could be mass-produced using a new method developed by researchers at MIT. The microscopic devices, which the team calls "syncells" (short for synthetic cells), might eventually be used to ...

MIT and NASA engineers demonstrate a new kind of airplane wing

A team of engineers has built and tested a radically new kind of airplane wing, assembled from hundreds of tiny identical pieces. The wing can change shape to control the plane's flight, and could provide a significant boost ...

Autonomous weed control via smart robots

Driving across Iowa, Hendrik J. Viljoen, distinguished professor of chemical and biological engineering at the University of Nebraska, noticed that soybean fields were becoming increasingly infested with weeds each season. ...

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Robot is a virtual or mechanical artificial agent. In practice, it is usually an electro-mechanical system which, by its appearance or movements, conveys a sense that it has intent or agency of its own. The word robot can refer to both physical robots and virtual software agents, but the latter are usually referred to as bots. There is no consensus on which machines qualify as robots, but there is general agreement among experts and the public that robots tend to do some or all of the following: move around, operate a mechanical limb, sense and manipulate their environment, and exhibit intelligent behavior, especially behavior which mimics humans or other animals. In South Africa, robot is an informal and commonly used term for a set of traffic lights.

Stories of artificial helpers and companions and attempts to create them have a long history but fully autonomous machines only appeared in the 20th century. The first digitally operated and programmable robot, the Unimate, was installed in 1961 to lift hot pieces of metal from a die casting machine and stack them. Today, commercial and industrial robots are in widespread use performing jobs more cheaply or with greater accuracy and reliability than humans. They are also employed for jobs which are too dirty, dangerous or dull to be suitable for humans. Robots are widely used in manufacturing, assembly and packing, transport, earth and space exploration, surgery, weaponry, laboratory research, and mass production of consumer and industrial goods.

Modern robots are usually used in tightly controlled environments such as on assembly lines because they have difficulty responding to unexpected interference. Because of this, most humans rarely encounter robots. However, domestic robots for cleaning and maintenance are increasingly common in and around homes in developed countries, particularly in Japan. Robots can also be found in the military.

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