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The basic terms in robotics - A guide for the non-professional curious reader

Robotics is a rapidly growing field that combines the principles of mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, and computer science to create machines that can perform tasks autonomously or with minimal human assistance. The goal of robotics is to develop robots that can perform complex tasks, interact with their environment, and operate in a human-like manner. To achieve this goal, robotics relies on several key principles, including mechatronics, kinematics, computer vision, image processing, SLAM, obstacle avoidance, and arm movement.




  • Mechatronics is the integration of mechanical, electrical, and computer systems to create machines that can perform complex tasks. This is a critical component of robotics, as it allows robots to sense their environment, process information, and control their movements. For example, a robot equipped with mechatronic systems can be designed to sense obstacles in its path and adjust its trajectory accordingly, ensuring that it does not collide with anything in its environment. Mechatronics also includes control systems, which are responsible for controlling the movements of the robot. These control systems use algorithms to determine the best way for the robot to move, based on the information it receives from its sensors.


  • Kinematics is the branch of mechanics that deals with the study of motion and its causes. In robotics, kinematics is used to model the movement of robots, including the movements of their joints and limbs. This information is used to control the movement of the robot, ensuring that it moves in a smooth and precise manner. For example, a robot with a kinematic model can be programmed to move its arm in a specific way, allowing it to perform tasks such as grasping an object or reaching for a tool. Kinematic models can also be used to simulate the movements of robots, allowing designers to test and refine their designs before building the actual robot.


  • Computer vision is the field of computer science that deals with how computers can interpret and understand visual information. In robotics, computer vision is used to allow robots to see and interpret their environment. This information can be used to help robots navigate, avoid obstacles, and perform tasks such as recognizing objects or people. For example, a robot equipped with computer vision systems can be designed to recognize and pick up a specific object, such as a tool or a package. Computer vision systems use algorithms to process images captured by the robot's cameras, and use this information to determine the position and orientation of objects in the environment.


  • Image processing is the field of computer science that deals with the processing and analysis of images. In robotics, image processing is used to extract information from images captured by the robot's cameras. This information can be used to help the robot navigate its environment, recognize objects, and avoid obstacles. For example, a robot equipped with image processing systems can be designed to recognize specific shapes or patterns, allowing it to pick out a specific object from a group of similar objects. Image processing algorithms can also be used to enhance images, remove noise, and correct distortions, making it easier for the robot to understand its environment.


  • SLAM, or simultaneous localization and mapping, is a technique used by robots to build a map of their environment and determine their location within that environment. SLAM is critical for robots that need to navigate their environment, as it allows them to understand their surroundings and avoid obstacles. For example, a robot equipped with SLAM systems can be programmed to navigate a warehouse, mapping out the layout of the space and avoiding obstacles as it moves. SLAM algorithms use information from the robot's sensors, including its cameras and laser rangefinders, to create a map of the environment and determine the robot's position within that environment.


  • Obstacle avoidance is the ability of a robot to detect and avoid obstacles in its environment. This is critical for ensuring the safety of the robot and its surroundings, as well as for allowing the robot to perform tasks in complex environments. Obstacle avoidance systems use information from the robot's sensors, such as cameras or laser rangefinders, to detect obstacles in its path. The robot then adjusts its trajectory to avoid the obstacle, ensuring that it does not collide with anything in its environment. Obstacle avoidance is particularly important in environments where there are many obstacles, such as cluttered workspaces or crowded streets.


  • Arm movement is the ability of a robot to move its arms or other appendages in a precise and controlled manner. This is critical for allowing robots to perform tasks such as grasping objects, reaching for tools, or manipulating their environment. For example, a robot equipped with arm movement systems can be programmed to pick up and move objects, allowing it to perform tasks such as stacking boxes or assembling parts. Arm movement systems use actuators, such as motors or hydraulic cylinders, to control the movement of the robot's arms. The actuators are controlled by algorithms that determine the best way for the robot to move its arms, based on the information it receives from its sensors.

In conclusion, the basic principles of robotics play a critical role in the development of robots that can perform complex tasks and interact with their environment in a human-like manner. Mechatronics, kinematics, computer vision, image processing, SLAM, obstacle avoidance, and arm movement are just some of the key principles that are used in the development of robots, and these principles are constantly being refined and improved as new technologies are developed. As the field of robotics continues to grow and evolve, we can expect to see even more advanced robots that are capable of performing a wider range of tasks and operating in increasingly complex environments.


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