Robotics is a key technology in the modern world. Robots are a well-established part of manufacturing and warehouse automation, assembling cars or washing machines, and, for example, moving goods to and from storage racks for Internet mail order. More recently robots have taken their first steps into homes and hospitals, and seen spectacular success in planetary exploration. Yet, despite these successes, robots have failed to live up to the predictions of the 1950s and 60s, when it was widely thought – by scientists and engineers as well as the public – that by turn of the 21st century we would have intelligent robots as butlers, companions, or co-workers. This Very Short Introduction explains how it is that robotics can be both a success story and a disappointment, how robots can be both ordinary and remarkable, and looks at their important developments in science and their applications to everyday life.
1: Where are the intelligent robots?
2: Working robots: what robots do now
3: Biological robotics
4: Becoming human: humanoid and android robots
5: Trends in robotics research: new approaches
6: Robotic futures
Alan Winfield is Professor of Electronic Engineering and Director of the Science Communication Unit at the University of the West of England, Bristol. He conducts research in swarm robotics in the Bristol Robotics Laboratory and is especially interested in robots as working models of life, evolution, intelligence, and culture. Alan is passionate about communicating science and technology. He holds an EPSRC Senior Media Fellowship with the theme Intelligent Robots in Science and Society, and blogs about robots, open science and related topics at http://alanwinfield.blogspot.com/