Robots are automatic machines. Some robots can perform mechanical and repetitive jobs faster, more accurately, and more safely than people. Robots can also handle dangerous materials and explore distant planets.
Robots can sense and respond to their surroundings. They can handle delicate objects or apply great force—for example, to perform eye operations guided by a human surgeon, or to assemble a car. With ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE, robots will also be able to make decisions for themselves.
Electronic sensors are a robot’s eyes and ears. Twin video cameras give the robot a 3-D view of the world. Microphones detect sounds. Pressure sensors give the robot a sense of touch, to judge how hard to grip an egg. Built-in computers send and receive information with radio waves.
Artificial intelligence attempts to create computer programs that think like human brains. Current research has not achieved this, but some computers can be programmed to recognize faces in a crowd.
Robots can think. They can play complex games, such as chess, better than human beings. But will a robot ever know that it is thinking? Humans are conscious—we know we are thinking—but we don’t know how consciousness works. We don’t know if computers can ever be conscious.
Robots have replaced people performing repetitive jobs, and dangerous jobs, such as bomb disposal. In the future, robots may do housework and other jobs for us. But will robots replace people in jobs that need kindness or creativity? It’s hard to imagine a robot teacher or dancer.