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Real-Life Robots

Real-Life Robots

What do you picture in your mind, when you
think of … robots? Do you think of a walking, talking piece of
metal like this? A lot of people do! Because some robots really
do look sort of like people… But, despite what you see in the movies, most
real-life robots don’t look like us. They can look like animals, like Squeaks here,
or like things you’ve never even seen before. Robots come in all different shapes and sizes,
because they all have different jobs to do. And if you’re wondering what robots really
are, and what they can do … you’re not alone! 7-year-old Rowan recently emailed us to ask:
“What is a robot, and how do robots work?” Squeaks says “Great, question, Rowan!” A robot is a machine that’s designed by
people to do a specific job. And the scientists who design and build robots are called roboticists. Most robots do jobs that people can’t do,
or don’t want to do. If a job is kind of boring — like if it involves
doing the same thing over and over — or if a job is very dangerous — and it means going
places where people could get hurt — then chances are, a robot has been built to do
it instead! The very first robot was built over 50 years
ago to help build cars in a factory. Today, car factories still depend on robots
a lot like that one to do all kinds of jobs, from putting the pieces of a car together
to spraying them with paint when they’re finished. And robots work in lots of /other/ kinds of
factory jobs, too — like building computers, and even putting candies in their wrappers! Robots are good at jobs like these, because
unlike humans, they’re less likely to make mistakes when they’re working, and they
don’t go on vacation, or even lunch breaks. Plus, they never get bored. They can keep
going, and going, and going. This makes nighttime jobs the perfect fit
for bots. They can do things like control city trains after dark while we get our sleep! Robots can also work in places that humans
would have a tough time adjusting to — or where we could never go. There are robots that work in really hot places,
like volcanoes… …and really cold places like deeeep underwater
in the ocean ….and even in really smelly places like
sewage plants. There are even robots doing jobs for us on
other planets. Yup, that means there are robots in space! There are two robots-on-wheels, named Opportunity
and Curiosity, that are cruising around on Mars right now! Scientists call them rovers, and they might
look like cars or go-carts, but they’re considered robots, too, because they get instructions
from scientists here on Earth to do all kinds of important work — like studying the planet’s
air, digging up soil, and even drilling into rocks to see what they’re made of! Scientists hope that the discoveries that
are made by Opportunity and Curiosity will help us figure out how we can one day send
humans to Mars! Another robot called R2 was sent to the International
Space Station, making it the first human-like robot in space. Even though they’re not very common, there
are other robots, like R2, that look and act sort of like people. One of them, called ASIMO, has been built
to do some amazing, lifelike things. Although he hasn’t been to space—yet!—ASIMO can
walk, run, climb stairs, and even dance! Robots like ASIMO show us just how far roboticists
have come since they built the very first robot over 50 years ago. It’ll probably be a long time before a robot
can do your homework with you, or fly you to school every morning. But they’re already
showing up in lot of homes, doing ordinary chores, like mowing the lawn or vacuuming
the house. All we have to do is plug them in or press the START button. So, who knows what super-cool robots there
will be in the next 50 years! I can’t wait to find out! Thanks to Rowan for asking such a fun question,
and thanks to you for learning about robots with Squeaks and me. And remember, if you have a question about
anything you’d like to learn more about, just let us know by getting help from a parent,
and leaving a comment below or emailing us at [email protected] See you next time!

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