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Robotics is the branch of technology that deals with the design, construction, operation, and application of robots, as well as computer systems for their control, sensory feedback, and information processing. These technologies deal with automated machines that can take the place of humans in dangerous environments or manufacturing processes, or resemble humans in appearance, behavior, and/or cognition.
On the most basic level, human beings are made up of five major components:
A body structure
A muscle system to move the body structure
A sensory system that receives information about the body and the surrounding environment
A power source to activate the muscles and sensors
A brain system that processes sensory information and tells the muscles what to do
Of course, we also have some intangible attributes, such as intelligence and morality, but on the sheer physical level, the list above about covers it.
A robot is made up of the very same components. A typical robot has a movable physical structure, a motor of some sort, a sensor system, a power supply and a computer "brain" that controls all of these elements. Essentially, robots are man-made versions of animal life -- they are machines that replicate human and animal behavior.
The vast majority of robots do have several qualities in common. First of all, almost all robots have a movable body. Some only have motorized wheels, and others have dozens of movable segments, typically made of metal or plastic. Like the bones in your body, the individual segments are connected together with joints.
Robots spin wheels and pivot jointed segments with some sort of actuator. Some robots use electric motors and solenoids as actuators; some use a hydraulic system; and some use a pneumatic system (a system driven by compressed gases). Robots may use all these actuator types.
A robot needs a power source to drive these actuators. Most robots either have a battery or they plug into the wall. Hydraulic robots also need a pump to pressurize the hydraulic fluid, and pneumatic robots need an air compressor or compressed air tanks.
The robot's computer controls everything attached to the circuit. To move the robot, the computer switches on all the necessary motors and valves. Most robots are reprogrammable -- to change the robot's behavior, you simply write a new program to its computer.