"Welcome my son, welcome to the machine
Where have you been?
Welcome my son, welcome to the machine
What did you dream?"
— "Welcome to the Machine," Wish You Were Here, Pink Floyd, 1975
When you push a vacuum cleaner around your house, you don't consider yourself to be working with a robot; however, when a Roomba travels around the house and picks up dirt on its own, it's considered a vacuuming robot. So what makes a robot a robot?
We've had lots of discussions about this at Autodesk, and we've decided that here is what's required:
Robots need a power source to operate.
Robots rely on actuators or motors and hydraulics to convert energy into movement and force.
Robots use sensors to see and feel what’s happening in their environment.
Robots leverage effectors — tools that handle materials and manipulate things.
Robots have a control system — a brain that directs their operation.
If you take any one of these characteristics, the thing is no longer a robot. It's a machine.
What has your experience been with things that blur the line between machine and robot? Do you prefer the kind that say "Danger, Will Robinson!" or "I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that."? Let us know at email@example.com.
Machines are alive in the lab.