(GS Paper 3) Awareness in the fields of Robotics

Awareness in the fields of Robotics

What is Robotics and Robot?

  • Robotics  is  the  field  of  S & T that deals with the design, construction, operation, and application of robots, as well as computer systems for their control, manipulation & processing.
  • The word ‘Robotics’ was first used by Isaac Asimov in 1941. Robotics is based on word Robot coined by Josef  Coper.  The  world  ‘Robot’  come  from  word ‘Roboto’ meaning self-labour. In 1960s, first industrial robot Unimate was made.
  • A “robot” is any automatically operated machine that replaces human effort though it may or may not resemble human  being in appearance or perform function in human like manner.
  • A device can only be called a “robot” if it contains a movable mechanism, influenced by sensing, planning, actuation and control components.
  • In practical terms, “robot” usually refers to a machine which can be electronically programmed to carry out a variety of physical tasks or actions.
  • The word robot can refer to both physical robots and virtual software agents, but the latter are usually referred to as bots.

What is “Bot”

  • An Internet bot (or web robot or bot) is a software application that runs automated tasks over the Internet. Typically, bots perform tasks that are both simple and structurally repetitive, at a much higher rate than would be possible for a human alone.
  • On the Internet, the most ubiquitous bots are the programs, also called spiders or crawlers, that access Web sites and gather their content for search engine indexes.
  • A chatterbot is a program that can simulate talk with a human being.
  • A shopbot is a program that shops around the Web on your behalf and locates the best price for a product you’re looking for.
  • A knowbot is a program that automatically searchs Internet sites and gathers information from them according to user-specified criteria.

Basic Components of Robots

  • The structure of a robot is usually mostly mechanical and is called a kinematic chain (its functionally similar to the skeleton of human body).
  • Following are basic components of Robots:


  • The controller is the “brain” of the industrial robotic arm and allows the parts of the robot to operate together. It works as a computer and allows the robot to also be connected to other systems. The robotic arm controller runs a set of instructions written in code called a program.


  • Actuators are like the “muscles” of a robot, the parts which convert stored energy into movement. By far the most popular actuators are electric motors that spin a wheel or gear, and linear actuators that control industrial robots in factories. But there are some recent advances in alternative types of actuators, powered by electricity, chemicals, or compressed air.


  • Sensors are what allow a robot to gather information about its environment. This information can be used to guide the robot’s behavior. Some sensors are relatively familiar pieces of equipment.
  • Cameras allow a robot to construct a visual representation of its environment. This allows the robot to judge attributes of the environment that can only be determined by vision, such as shape and color, as well as aid in determining other important qualities, such as the size and distance of objects.
  • Microphones allow robots to detect sounds. Some robots come equipped with thermometers and barometers to sense temperature and pressure.
  • Other types of sensors are more complex, and give a robot more interesting capabilities.Robots equipped with LIght Detection And Ranging (LIDAR) sensors use lasers to construct three dimensional maps of their surroundings as they navigate through the world. Supersonic sensors are a cheaper way to accomplish a similar goal only using high frequency sound instead of lasers.
  • Sensors allow the robotic arm to receive feedback about its environment. One use of these sensors is to keep two robots that work closely together from bumping into each other. Vision sensors allow a pick and place robot to differentiate between items to choose and items to ignore.

Manipulator and End Effector

  • Robots need to manipulate objects; pick up, modify, destroy, or otherwise have an effect. Thus the “hands” of a robot are often referred to as end effectors (device at the end of a robotic arm), while the “arm” is referred to as a manipulator. End-Effectors are the tools at the end of robotic arms that directly interact with objects in the world. The effectors are the parts of the robot that actually do the work.
    Robot end effector
  • Industrial robot arms can vary in size and shape. The industrial robot arm is the part that positions the end effector. With the robot arm, the shoulder, elbow, and wrist move and twist to position the end effector in the exact right spot. Each of these joints gives the robot another degree of freedom. A simple robot with three degrees of freedom can move in three ways: up & down, left & right, and forward & backward.
  • Most robot arms have replaceable effectors, each allowing them to perform some small range of tasks. Some have a fixed manipulator which cannot be replaced.

Classifications of Robotics

Robots can be placed into 2 categories based on type of job they perform:

  1. Work  which  a  robot  can  do  better  than  human beings  in  terms  of  speed,  accuracy,  repeatability, endurance. e.g. Manufacturing tiny circuit chips, doing heavy lifting job etc. For Example: Industrial Robots
  2. Work which humans could do better than robots but robots can free us from dangerous, dull and dirty task. e.g. Bomb diffusion, gas leakage, Cleaning pipes, garbage etc. For Example: Domestic Robots, Tele Robots (used in surveillance & combat operations).

Types of Robots

Industrial Robots

  • It is defined as automatically controlled reprogrammable multipurpose  manipulator  designed  to  move  in  three  or more  axis, which may be either fixed in place or mobile for use in industrial automation applications.
  • They  don’t  get  tired  and  they  don’t  make errors  associated  with  fatigue  and  so  are  ideally  well suited to perform repetitive tasks.
  • Some robots are programmed to faithfully carry out specific actions over and over again (repetitive actions) without variation and with a high degree of accuracy.
  • Other robots are much more flexible as to the orientation of the object on which they are operating or even the task that has to be performed on the object itself, which the robot may even need to identify.
  • A collaborative robot or cobot is a robot that can safely and effectively interact with human workers while performing simple industrial tasks.

Mobile Robots

  • Mobile robots have the capability to move around in their environment and are not fixed to one physical location. Mobile robots can be “autonomous” (AMR – autonomous mobile robot) which means they are capable of navigating an uncontrolled environment without the need for physical or electro-mechanical guidance devices.
  • Alternatively, mobile robots can rely on guidance devices that allow them to travel a pre-defined navigation route in relatively controlled space (AGV – autonomous guided vehicle). By contrast, industrial robots are usually more-or-less stationary.

Humanoid robot

  • A humanoid robot is a robot with its body shape built to resemble that of the human body. A humanoid design might be for functional purposes, such as interacting with human tools and environments, for experimental purposes or for other purposes.
  • In general, humanoid robots have a torso, a head, two arms, and two legs, though some forms of humanoid robots may model only part of the body, for example, from the waist up. Some humanoid robots may also have heads designed to replicate human facial features such as eyes and mouths.
  • Researchers need to understand the human body structure and behavior (biomechanics) to build and study humanoid robots. On the other side, the attempt to the simulation of the human body leads to a better understanding of it.
  • Besides the research, humanoid robots are being developed to perform human tasks like personal assistance, where they should be able to assist the sick and elderly, and dirty or dangerous jobs. Regular jobs like being a receptionist or a worker of an automotive manufacturing line are also suitable for humanoids. In essence, since they can use tools and operate equipment and vehicles designed for the human form, humanoids could theoretically perform any task a human being can, so long as they have the proper software. However, the complexity of doing so is deceptively great.
  • Humanoid robots, especially with artificial intelligence algorithms, could be useful for future dangerous and/or distant space exploration missions.

Some Examples of Humanoid Robots:

  • ASIMO (Honda’s humanoid robot)
  • Acyut humanoid robot (BITS Pilani)

Military robots

  • Military robots are autonomous robots or remote-controlled devices designed for military applications.It can be UAVs, Drones, mobile robots or even humanoid soldiers. Robotics are the future of warfare.
  • Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) plan to create super-intelligent robots to fight alongside human troops. Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) announced its intention to develop robotic soldiers for military applications.
  • Daksh is a battery-operated remote-controlled robot on wheels and its primary role is to recover bombs. Developed by Defence Research and Development Organisation, it is fully automated. It has a shotgun, which can break open locked doors, and it can scan cars for explosives.
  • Nishant is an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) developed by India’s ADE (Aeronautical Development Establishment), a branch of DRDO for the Indian Armed Forces. The Nishant UAV is primarily tasked with intelligence gathering over enemy territory and also for reconnaissance, training, surveillance, target designation, artillery fire correction, damage assessment. It is for Indian Army. Nishant is launched using catapult and lands using a parachute.
  • Panchi is UAV Nishant’s new version with wheels. It can take-off and land from air-strips like a regular aircraft. It can do all functions of Nishant, while staying in air for a longer period, because Panchi’s weight is lighter than Nishant. Panchi has smaller cross-section, low chances of radar-detection, compared to Nishant.
  • Rustom is a unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) being developed by Defence Research and Development Organisation for the three services, Indian Army, Indian Navy and the Indian Air Force of the Indian Armed Forces.
  • AURA is an autonomous unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV), being developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation for the Indian Air Force and Indian Navy. The UCAV will be capable of releasing missiles, bombs and precision-guided munitions.
  • Lakshya is an Indian remotely piloted high speed target drone system developed by the Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE) of DRDO. It is used to perform discreet aerial reconnaissance of battlefield and target acquisition. It is used by Indian Army, Indian Air Force and Indian Navy.
  • Netra is an Indian, light-weight, autonomous UAV for surveillance and reconnaissance operations. It has been jointly developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation’s Research and Development Establishment (R&DE), and IdeaForge, a Mumbai-based private firm. Present users are CRPF and BSF.
  • Pawan is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) developed by India’s ADE (Aeronautical Development Establishment), a branch of DRDO for the Indian Armed Forces.

Nanorobotics (Nanobots)

  • Nanorobotics is the emerging technology field creating machines or robots whose components are at or close to the scale of a nanometre (10−9 meters). Nanomachines are largely in the research and development phase, but some primitive Nanobots.
  • Researchers also hope to be able to create entire robots as small as viruses or bacteria, which could perform tasks on a tiny scale. Possible applications include micro surgery (on the level of individual cells), utility fog ( a hypothetical collection of tiny robots that can replicate a physical structure), manufacturing, weaponry and cleaning.

Bionics and Biomimetics Robots

  • Biomimetics or biomimicry is the imitation of the models, systems, and elements of nature for the purpose of solving complex human problems. Biomimicry seeks solutions to human challenges by emulating nature’s time-tested patterns and strategies.
  • Bionics is science of constructing artificial systems that have some of the characteristics of living systems. Bionics is distinct from bioengineering, which is the use of living things to perform certain industrial tasks
  • These are used to apply the way animals move to the design of robots. BionicKangaroo was based on the movements and physiology of kangaroos.
  • BionicKangaroo: Applying methods from bionics, and biomimetics, Festo’s researchers and engineers studied the way kangaroos move, and applied that to the design of a robot that moves in a similar way. The robot actually saves energy from each jump and applies it to its next jump, much as a real kangaroo does.


  • They are semi-autonomous robots controlled from a distance, chiefly using Wireless network. It is a combination of two major subfields, teleoperation and telepresence. Teleoperation indicates operation of a machine at a distance. Telepresence refers to a set of technologies which allow a person to feel as if they were present, to give the appearance of being present

Applications of Robots

(1) Industry


  • Industrial Robots due to their speed accuracy, reliability & endurance are readily used in manufacturing  of  cars.  Tasks  such  as  welding, spray  painting  welding,  material  handling  & assembling  can  be  perform  for  better  by  an industrial robot than a human.
  • Manufacturing  technology, a  key factor  in attaining a high level of production is  today going through a new industrial revolution benefitting from rapid progress  in  the  area  of  robotics, computer intelligence  sensors  &  control and information  & communication tech.


  • Pick & place robot are used in mass production of the printed circuits boards (PCB’s). They help in removing tiny electronics components from strips & trays & place them on to PCB’s with great accuracy.
  • Such  robots  can  place  several  components  per second  far  out  performing  a  human  in terms of speed, accuracy & reliability.

Packaging  Industry:

  • Extensively  used  for palletizing  &  packaging  of  manufacture goods. For  e.g.-  taking  drink  cartoons  from  end  of
    conveyer belt  & placing them rapidly into boxes.

(2) Means of Transport

  • Mobile  Robots  acts  as automated  guided  vehicles  with  the scanning lasers are used to transport goods around  large  facilities  such  as warehouses, container ports or hospitals.

(3) Military Application:

  • Tele  Robots  like  unmanned  aerial  network  can  be used  to  perform  a  dangerous  task  in  faraway  or inaccessible  places.  These  can  be  controlled  from anywhere  in  the  world  allowing  an  army  to  search terrain  &  even  fire  or  targets  without  endangering those  using  it. It helps Military  to  defuse  roadside  bombs  or  improvised explosive devices.
  • (Rest have already been discussed in detail in Military Robots)

(4) Health & Medicine:

  • Robotics helps to realise the dream minimum invasive surgery and higher accuracy when robots are used in performing surgery.
  • Da Vinchi is robot that can do surgery with very tiny incisions => very less blood loss => faster healing and recovery.
  • A doctor through Remote surgery or tele-surgery can perform surgery on a patient even though they are  not  physically present in  the same location. It  promises  to  allow expertise of specialised surgeon to be available world  wide without the need for patient to travel beyond their local hospital.
  • Minimal invasive surgery of  avoids  open  invasive surgery  in  favour  of  closed  or  local  surgery  with less  trauma. Major  advantages  of  robotic  surgery includes:
  1. Less  Blood  loss  which  lowers  the  need  of  blood transfusion.
  2. Smaller  incision  which  reduces  pain  &  shorten recovery time.
  3. Less pain leading to less pain medication.
  4. Hospitalization time is reduced.
  5. Reduces the incident of post surgical complication.
  6. Rapid recovery.
  • Robots assist an individual, such as a sufferer of a disease like Multiple Sclerosis.
  • The population is aging in many countries, especially Japan, meaning that there are increasing numbers of elderly people to care for, but relatively fewer young people to care for them. Humans make the best carers, but where they are unavailable, robots are gradually being introduced.
  • FRIEND is a semi-autonomous robot designed to support disabled and elderly people in their daily life activities.

(5) Environment:

  • Nano robots can be used  to  clear  oil  spills  & disassembled  pollutants  specially non-biodegradable  ones  reducing  their  polluting impact.
  • Robots can be used in nuclear plants for handling & disposal of nuclear waste materials which saves the occupational workers in nuclear plant from potential exposure to hazardous radiation.

(6) Societal & Domestic Function:

  • Humanoid Robots can perform tasks like personal assistance where they will be able to assist  sick  & elderly  people.
  • Certain  domestic  robots  can  also  free us  from  dirty  &  dull  task  by  taking  up  simple unwanted  jobs  at  home  like  vaccum  cleaning  & lawn moving.

(7) Space  Exploration:

  • Almost every unmanned space probe ever launched was a robot.
  • Autonomous  Robots  are  used  in space  exploration  as  they  can  perform  desired  task  in unstructured  environment  without  continuous  human guidance.
  • Remotely  Operated  Vehicle  (ROV)  an unmanned  space  craft  can  act  as  Lander  that  makes contact  with  an  extraterrestrial  body  &  operates  from  a stationary  position  or  as  a  robot  that  can  move  over terrain area it is landed.
  • Robotics space craft can act as a space  probe operating in the vaccum of  space withstanding  exposure  to  radiation  extremes  of temperature.

(8) Disaster  Management:

  • Several  snake  robots  have been  successfully  developed.  Mimicking  the  way  real snakes  move,  these  robots  can  navigate  very  confined spaces, meaning they may one day be used to search for people  trapped  in  collapsed  buildings. The  Japanese ACM-R5 snake robot can even navigate both on land and in water.

(9) Mining:

  • Mining robots are designed to solve a number of problems currently facing the mining industry, including skills shortages, improving productivity from declining ore grades, and achieving environmental targets.
  • Due to the hazardous nature of mining, in particular underground mining, the prevalence of autonomous, semi-autonomous, and tele-operated robots has greatly increased in recent times.

(10) Other uses:

  • Underwater Sea Exploration
  • Research work
  • (Rest think yourself)
  • India’s Advancement

Roboethics and Machine Ethics

  • Roboethics is concerned with the behavior of humans, how humans design, construct, use and treat robots and other artificially intelligent beings, whereas machine ethics is concerned with the behavior of robots themselves, whether or not they are considered artificial moral agents.
  • As robots have become more advanced and sophisticated, experts and academics have increasingly explored the questions of what ethics might govern robots’ behavior, and whether robots might be able to claim any kind of social, cultural, ethical or legal rights.

India’s Progress in Robotics

  • India is emerging as a hub  for Industrial  Robots  & many American, Korean & even Japanese are using them. In the last few years robotics activities in India has moved  well  beyond  the  traditional  areas  of industrial  applications, atomic energy, etc. and entered newer domains of education, rehabilitation, entertainment, and  even  into  our homes. Indian robotics researchers have similarly grown from  a handful to over a hundred engaged in research labs,  education,  industry,  atomic  energy, etc.

Robotics in India: Institutions and their work:

  • Chaturobot:  Vision sensors to pick objects (DRDO+CAIR.) Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics (CAIR) is the premier laboratory for R&D in different areas in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) as applicable to Defence.
  • smartNAV is robot for navigating moon surface in next manned mission (ISRO)
  • AIIMs,  New  Delhi  has  successfully  performed robotic  surgery  where  it  removed  thymus  gland from  the  patient suffering from  ‘Myasthenia Grans’ (it  is  a  disease  characterised  by  progressive muscular  weakness  which  can  sometimes  be  life threatening).
  • Centre for Robotics & Machatronics, Kanpur (IIT).


  • e-Yantra is an initiative to incorporate Robotics into engineering education with the objective of engaging students and teachers through exciting hands-on application of math, computer science, and engineering principles.
  • It is an initiative by IIT Bombay that aims to create the next generation of embedded systems engineers with a practical outlook to help provide practical solutions to some of the real world problems.
  • Sponsored by MHRD under the National Mission on Education through ICT program
  • e-Yantra Robotics Competition (eYRC) is a unique annual competition for undergraduate students in science and engineering colleges. Abstracts of real world problems assigned as “themes” are implemented by participating teams using the robotic kits. The winners of this competition are offered summer internship at IITB through e-Yantra Summer Internship Program.

Robotics Society of India

  • The Robotics Society of India is an academic society founded on July 10, 2011 aimed at promoting Indian robotics and automation activities. The society hopes to serve as a bridge between researchers in institutes, government research centers and industry.
  • Objectives:
    • Encourage interaction between robotics researches in India (academic/R&D Labs/industry).
    • Hold joint workshops and conferences at the national level.
    • Associate with other organizations involved in Robotics like IEEE, ASME etc.
    • Publish a newsletter, proceeding, Journals, etc.

Indian Underwater Robotics Society

  • The Indian Underwater Robotics Society or IURS is India’s first and only non-profit research organisation NGO for the advancement of low-cost robotics and intelligent systems research in developing countries.

Challenges of Robotics in India

  • The  cost  of adopting Robotic technology is very high due to the cost of procuring imported hardware components as
    well as training personnel.
  • As  Robotics  is  a  multidisciplinary  field,  acquiring and retaining quality talent is a big issue.
  • As  Robotics  is  multidisciplinary  in  nature,  barring students in the top schools in India, the others lack the  knowledge  required  in  four  to  five  engineering disciplines  to  become  an  expert  in  this  field.  Also most of the students develop projects  that already exist in the public domain.
  • The  capital-intensive  nature  of  Robotics  adoption when  compared  to  the  low  cost  of  human  labour clearly tips the scale in favour of the latter.
  • There is scarcity of good faculty to teach the subject: Barring  a  few  regions  in  India,  Robotics  as  a subject  is  not  taught  well  to  the  engineering students.

Future of Robotics in India

  • Robotics  mainly  capturing  industries  like  manufacturing, pharmaceutical, FMCG, packaging and inspection. A bit of Robotics  would  also  be  seen  in  the  healthcare  sector. The  other  promising sectors  are  defence and  education.
  • As  with  other  technologies,  adoption  in India  is  usually  sluggish,  however,  once  picked  up,  it does  follow  a  steeper  growth  trajectory.  In sectors where demand is rising, there will be huge opportunities  and  hence  a  higher  rate  of  adoption  of Robotic  technology.
  • Due  to  globalization  and  high industrialization,  Robotics  in  India  is  poised  for  a  bright future. Considering that India is already a manufacturing hub  catering  to  the  whole  world,  the  use  of  robots  in every aspect of manufacturing will provide the necessary edge  to  companies.  In  turn  this  will  propel  the requirement of skilled manpower for this technology.
  • Given  that  Robotics  is  fast  entering  into  the  industrial space in India, it is but natural that a lot of employment and  entrepreneurship  opportunities  are  opening  up  for people who wish to enter this growing and exciting field.
  • There  is no denying the fact that there are many challenges  that need  to  be  overcome  before  India  is  seen  as  a  go-to destination  for  Robotics. One of the biggest  challenges that they face today is the procurement of the hardware and  other  electronic  components  that  are  required  to build  a  robot.  However,  this  can  be  seen  as  a  golden opportunity  for  budding entrepreneurs to set  up businesses that  can  supply  “Made In India”  components and  hardware  to  the  existing  and  upcoming  companies involved  in  Robotics.

Robotics in Manufacturing: China and India

  • In their industrial uses, Robots are essentially the next generation of machine tools; extremely fast and precise in performing their assigned tasks, while being extremely flexible in switching from one task to the other. Their rapid penetration into a whole range of manufacturing activities has significant implications for people-abundant economies like India.
  • If you had to choose one industry that has done relatively well despite the sluggish global economy, it would be robotics. The International Federation of Robotics, the global industry association, estimates that almost 230,000 robots were sold worldwide in 2014, about 27 per cent higher than the previous year. This volume of sales is about twice the level of 10 years ago.
  • Since 2013, China has become the largest market for robots. This may seem like a paradox: the economy with the largest workforce also having the largest robot force. Why is an apparently labour-abundant economy ramping up its robot force so aggressively? The obvious and correct explanation is that its cost competitiveness in manufacturing based on low wages is rapidly deteriorating. All this while, the relative cost of robots has been decreasing as prices decline with volumes and productivity increases with technology.
  • China’s big thrust in robotics, which includes the growth of domestic manufacturers in a space previously dominated by Japan and the United States, essentially aims to protect its competitiveness even as wages continue to rise and the size of the labour force dwindles because of ageing.
  • Where does India stand in this robot race? About 2,500 robots were installed in India in 2014; sales are expected to increase to 5,000 by 2017. The estimated stock of robots in India was about 12,000 in 2014; this is also expected to double by 2017.
  • India’s workforce is almost as large as China’s, but its share of manufacturing in gross domestic product (GDP) is significantly lower, which partly explains the low robot penetration. But there are clearly other factors at work, too.
  • An underlying presumption in India’s collective belief that it will inherit the mantle of “factory to the world” from China is that its labour-cost advantages will eventually motivate producers to relocate labour-intensive activities.
  • At least three important issues need to be thought through.
  • First, what is the skill-wage-productivity configuration that Indian workers need to achieve in order to out-perform Chinese robots? It may seem like a lost cause, but there are several industries in which robots are yet to penetrate significantly and this provides opportunities. But to exploit these, skills will have to be ramped up for large numbers of workers very quickly; further, any process that aspires to be globally competitive will have to have significant capital and technology components.
  • Second, it is reasonable to expect that growth in Indian manufacturing will take place largely through the integration of Indian producers into global supply chains. It is virtually impossible now for stand-alone operations to achieve scale economies. Supply chains may spread across diverse geographies, but their links must conform to some common technological standards. In other words, if the world is going robotic, Indian manufacturing cannot remain aloof from the trend.
  • If India’s thrust on manufacturing succeeds, it could well find itself in the same paradox as China; having the largest labour resources while being the most attractive market for industrial robots. This will have significant political economy implications.
  • Third, robot factories offer the Indian information technology (IT) sector a new growth opportunity. Large IT companies typically have business units that provide remote operations-management services – effectively running processes in other countries from Bengaluru or elsewhere in India. Robots will take such operations to an entirely different level. Entire factories can be run from remote locations, with the operator translating production decisions into activity sequences for robots. Could one imagine, say, television sets being produced in Guangdong by controllers sitting in Gurgaon?
  • The simple point is this. Robotics, and more generally, automation, are inexorable forces. They are making many kinds of human capabilities and, consequently, the people who possess them, obsolete.
  • So, the successful introduction of automation poses a challenge for countries such as India and Indonesia seeking to lure such “labour-intensive” investment away from China.  “Prematurely deindustrialising” countries such as India will find it much harder to create jobs; robots might help raise productivity, but this will likely prove a marginal narrative in the bleak India story. labour-intensive employment is unlikely to spin off as many jobs as it once did.

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