When you think of a robot, what is the first thing that comes to mind? Many people associate robots with the image of automated humanoid machines with monotone voices. While some robots are designed specifically to look like humans, many of the operational robots in the world today have none of the physical features of a human. Robots have often been associated with science fiction (R2-D2, Wall-E, Transformers), and they are extensively used in factories and other places of production for their mechanical services. Today we find them all around us – in our homes, offices, schools, and malls, to name a few places. Robots are some of the most fascinating inventions out there, some merged with AI and machine learning, and some with human minds, hearts, and brains. You may find yourself wondering about some interesting facts about robots. But to begin with, let’s answer some basic questions first.

What is a robot?

A robot is a machine programmed to carry out tasks and replicate human actions. The word “robot” is taken from the Czech word “robota” which roughly translates to “forced labor” or “drudgery.” These machines are created to serve various purposes and to perform many different functions. 

What is robotics?

The science and study of robots are called “robotics.” Scientists study, design, manufacture, and experiment with robots in robotics. Robotics is multidisciplinary, but it largely comes under the engineering and computer science field. Read on to find out some more facts about robots for kids.

What are some characteristics of robots?

  • Robots don’t have physical or environmental needs like humans do. 
  • Since their inception and mass distribution, robots have replaced the human workforce. 
  • Robots do not have feelings or emotions. However, ‘Sentient Robots’ are programmed to be conscious using artificial intelligence.
  • Robots are very expensive, owing to their mechanical organization and maintenance needs and the time it takes for them to be designed. 
  • The energy source of robots is mostly electricity, which comes via wires, solar power, or built-in batteries. 
  • There are many different types of robots based on their purpose and function – industrial, military, service, exploration, hazardous environments, medical, and entertainment, to name a few.  
  • Automatons are fully self-operating robots that perform actions on repeat.  
  • Aerobots are robots that are capable of flying on other planets.

What are some facts about the history of robots?

  • Robots were first created for their practical usefulness to humans – their purpose was to assist humans and help make work easier for them. 
  • Greek mathematician Archytas of Tarentum created the first known “robot” in the 5th century BC. Archytas created a mechanical wooden dove that could fly up to 200 meters and flap its wings. This invention’s exact details and mechanics are unknown, but some guess that the dove was connected to a cable attached to a pulley and counterweight, which allowed the dove to “fly.” 
  • Leonardo Da Vinci designed a humanoid robot in 1464. Da Vinci’s robot was called the ‘mechanical knight,’ and it could move its arms, sit, and stand independently. 
  • The word “robot” was first used in a play called RUR (Rossum’s Universal Robots). RUR was written by Czech playwright and journalist Karel Capek in 1920.
  • “Elektro” was the name of the first speaking humanoid robot in 1939. Elektro was built by Westinghouse and was programmed to speak 700 words. It was 7 feet tall and could perform simple tasks such as blowing up balloons. 
  • The term “robotics” was coined by Isaac Asimov, a science fiction writer and futurist, in 1941. Asimov used the term to characterize robot technology and foresee the rise of the powerful robot industry. 
  • The first mobile and perceptive robot were called “Shakey.” SRI International developed Shakey in Silicon Valley. Shakey was designed to carry out planning, route-finding, and rearranging simple objects. Shakey was also referred to as the “first electronic person.” 
  • In 1948, British roboticist William Grey Walter invented Elmer and Elsie robots. These robots could replicate lifelike behavior. 
  • The first industrial robot was introduced in 1961. This robot was called “Unimate.” It was created by George Devol and Joseph Engelberger to weld auto bodies in an assembly line at a General Motors plant.
  • The first documented unintentional death caused by a robot was in 1981 when a robot arm killed a Japanese industry worker. 
  • Professor Kevin Warwick from the Reading University implanted a microchip in his nervous system in 1998, which allowed him to control lights, locks, elevators, and other devices.

How are robots being used in today’s world? 

  • There are over 2 million industrial robots currently in use in the world, according to the World Robotics 2020 study conducted by the International Federation of Robotics (IFR).
  • Highly specialized surgeons operate robots in surgery to perform surgeries where the human hand cannot access them. 
  • Robots are used in space to help explore and perform tasks that human explorers would not be able to do. Robots are used because they can survive for long periods in the harsh environment of space.
  • NASA has sent five robotic vehicles to the planet Mars so far. These robots are called rovers, and they were named – Sojourner, Spirit, Opportunity, Curiosity, and Perseverance. 
  • Nanorobots are microscopic robots used in healthcare, agriculture, and other fields. They are no more than 50-11 nm wide. 
  • The world’s smallest flying robot is the RoboBee, an autonomous flying microbot. These tiny robots were invented by the Wyss Institute at Harvard to be used in agriculture or disaster relief. 
  • Japan has a booming nursing-care robots market. Since Japan is expected to have 40% of its population above the age of 65 by 2065, the country is investing in medical care tech, including nursing robots.
  • South Korea is the first country to be drafting robot laws. Although these laws have not yet been constitutionalized, certain laws, such as the Cyberlaw under the Stanford Law website, lay down some rules for ethics in robotics.

What are some facts regarding robot statistics?

  • About half of all the robots in the world are in Asia, and 30% of all robots are in Japan. 
  • Vacuum robots are now the most popular type of household robot.
  • The Computer History Museum provides a comprehensive timeline of AI and Robotics. 
  • Carnegie Mellon’s Robot Hall of Fame houses some of the most influential fictional robots, such as the Iron Giant from the 1999 movie, and Maria from the 1927 movie “Metropolis”

What are some fun facts about robots for kids?

Beyond their practical and scientific use, robots are also used for entertainment and fun. Given below are some fun facts about robots for kids:

  1. Sophia, the human-like robot created by Hanson Robotics, is the world’s first robot citizen and the first robot Innovation Ambassador for the UNDP.
  2. Robots can see and hear with the help of cameras and sensors that create a picture of the environment around them. 
  3. Most AI robots are female because studies showed that most of the population prefers the female voice over the male one.
  4. The US Marine Corps tested a four-legged robotic dog designed by Google X’s Boston Dynamics team to examine its use for combat. 
  5. Baymax, the fictional healthcare robot from the Disney movie “Big Hero 6”, is inspired by high-tech robotics research conducted at Carnegie Mellon University. Carnegie Mellon student Siddharth Sanan designed an inflatable robotic arm for his Ph.D. research thesis. Sanan’s robotic arm served as the inspiration for Baymax’s cuddly character design.
  6. PARO is an animal therapy seal robot with five tactile, auditory, light, temperature, and posture sensors. Takanori Shibata created it at the Intelligent System Research Institute of Japan AIST. 

What is the future of robots and robotics?

As you’ve gone through these fun facts about robots for kids and robotics facts for kids, moving forward, there will be many more of such facts to come. Many developments have been made in recent years in the field of robotics. The areas of artificial intelligence and the smartphone industry have opened new ways for robotics to progress and grow. What we once saw only in movies is now being witnessed in reality. Recent innovations in robotics have contributed to the estimation that by 2030, the sector will be worth as much as $260 billion. Robots are likely to be used primarily in professional services such as cleaning, delivering, and transporting. As time goes by, with more developments and inventions taking place regularly, you can expect that soon. There will be a whole new set of facts about robotics for kids to learn again.