What Is A Robot?

Learn all about robots, including what kind of work they do, how they move, what they look like and more!

Robots are not new. For many years, scientists have experimented with giving machines "artificial intelligence," or computer brains.

In the 1940's, crude computer-type machines were given the task of breaking codes. They were the first robot-type machines. Once called "mechanical men," today robots are used for many things, and they can perform complicated work.


Robots are machines that use a computer brain to "think." People must put information into the computer, and that is called "programming." Then, the computer tells the robot what to do. Messages are sent from the computer brain to motors in the robot's parts. For example, a message is sent to the robot's legs, telling them to move in a certain way, and the robot walks.

Another message can be sent to the robot's arms and the robot moves its arms. Robots can even walk up and down stairs!

Robots can be programmed to do many kinds of work. They are used in factories, because they can use tools, pick things up, carry heavy things, squeeze things together and work without resting, eating or going to the bathroom!


Robots can fit into places people cannot. They can fold themselves in half, and turn their heads clear around. If they need to, they can even remove their heads!

Other robots are used for dangerous tasks, such as disarming bombs. They can work where it is too hot for humans, and they can even work deep under the sea, because they don't need air! Outer space is another place robots can work. Severe cold never bothers a robot, so they can even work at the North Pole!

Automobile manufacturers use robots in crash tests. They are also used to test firefighting equipment and clothing and space suits.

Once a robot is correctly programmed, it can perform tasks on its own. However, the robot must always be programmed by a person, so it is never totally independent.


Some robots are built to look like people. They have arms, legs, a head and a body. Some even have faces and hair and wear clothes! Other robots are only an arm or hand, if that is all that is necessary to perform their work. In outer space, a robotic arm is usually all that is needed.

The people-type robots can be given "eyes" to see. Actually, the eyes are sensors to keep the robot from bumping into things. Sensors can be "ears," so the robot can obey commands, or sensors can be put into the robot's fingers so it can "feel" what it is holding.


Robot-type toys have been popular for a long time. Most are not really robots, but simply motorized toys. They do not have a computer brain, but are mechanical.

Real robots are often used in movies. They can be made to look and move like people, animals or insects!

Some amusement parks use robots. They might be dressed and made to look like children or adults. When they are programmed to move like people and appear to be speaking, it is called "audio-animatronics." The movements of the robot are co-ordinated with a computer disk. Walt Disney's Disneyland was the first public place to use robots in this way.


Today, robots are useful for both work and entertainment, and they will be used for many more things in the future!

© High Speed Ventures 2011