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Our robotics world

Robots are growing in complexity and their use in industry is becoming more widespread. The main use of robots has so far been in the automation of mass production industries, where the same, definable tasks must be performed repeatedly in exactly the same fashion. Car production is the primary example of the employment of large and complex robots for producing goods. Robots are used in that process for the painting, welding and assembly of the cars. Robots are good for such tasks because the tasks can be accurately defined and must be performed the same every time, with little need for feedback to control the exact process being performed. Industrial robots can be manufactured in a wide range of sizes and so can handle more tasks requiring heavy lifting than a human could.

They are also useful in environments which are unpleasant or dangerous for humans to work in, for example bomb disposal, work in space (eg. Canadarm2) or underwater, in mining, and for the cleaning of toxic waste. Robots are also used for patrolling these toxic areas, robots equipped for this job are e.g. the Robowatch OFRO, and Robowatch MOSRO.

Often this is referred to as the "Three D's: Dull, Dirty and Dangerous" work. Hundreds of bomb disposal robots such as the iRobot Packbot and the Foster-Miller TALON are being used in Iraq and Afghanistan by the U.S. military to defuse roadside bombs, or improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in an activity known as Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD).

Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs) are movable robots that are used in large facilities such as warehouses hospitals and container ports, for the movement of goods, or even for safety and security patrols. Such vehicles follow wires, markers or laser-guidance to navigate around the location and can be programmed to move between places to deliver goods or patrol a certain area. Top manufacturers include Egemin, Transbotics, FMC and Jervis B Webb makes AGV "brains" used in freely moving autonomous vehicles that do not require fixed paths as earlier AGVs have done.

One robot being used in the United States is the Tug robot by Aethon Inc, an automated delivery system for hospitals. This robot travels around hospitals to deliver medical supplies, medication, food trays, or just about anything to nursing stations. Once it is finished it goes back to its charging station and waits for its next task.

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HeadThere, Inc. has introduced a telepresence robot that can be moved around its location by remote control using the Internet. The robot enables a user to hear, see, speak, and be seen at a far away location. In a sense, the robot acts as a stand-in for the user.

Domestic robots are now available that perform simple tasks such as vacuum cleaning and grass cutting. By the end of 2004 over 1,000,000 vacuum cleaner units had been sold. Examples of these domestic robots are the Scooba and Roomba robots from iRobot Corporation, Friendly Robotics' Robomower, and Electrolux's Automower.

Other domestic robots have the aim of providing companionship (social robots) or play partners (ludobots) to people. Examples are Sony's Aibo, a commercially successful robot pet dog, Paro, a robot baby seal intended to soothe nursing home patients, and Wakamaru, a humanoid robot intended for elderly and disabled people. Other humanoid robots are in development with the aim of being able to provide robotic functions in a form that may be more aesthetically pleasing to customers, thereby increasing the likelihood of them being accepted in society.

Robots perform in arts festivals and at museums with works such as James Seawright's House Plants, 1983, in which an artificial flower opens in response to viewer interaction or Ken Rinaldo's Autotelematic Spider Bots, 2006 where robots that appear like spiders, see like bats and act like ants interact with the public and structure each other's behaviors through Bluetooth communication. One of the earliest electronic art robots is Jim Pallas' 1976 Blue Wazoo which, using TTL IC devices, responds to sound and light with a repertoire of LED patterns, movements, inflations, deflations, whirs, clicks and jiggles.

For education in schools and high schools and mechatronics training in companies robot kits are becoming more and more popular. On the schools side there exists kits from LEGO , Parallax, Fischertechnik and others (made of plastics components); Microbric[5], which uses its mainboard as a chassis & on the more professional side there exists e.g. the qfix robot kit; VexLABS robotics kit made of aluminium parts; and the iRobot Create, which provides a fully assembled robot platform designed for expansion. Robots historically used in education include the turtle robots (strongly associated with the Logo programming language) and the Heathkit HERO series.