Robotics: Background, Influence on Everyday Life and Future
Posted on July 29th, 2020

Dr. Gamini Padmaperuma

The terms Robotics is often mentioned these days. There were many local inventions that were presented in mass media recently highlighting the possible use of Robotics in health care industry to meet the challenges faced under the COVID -19. The local innovators need to be congratulated and supported to ensure their prototypes are developed and converted in to fully commercially viable ventures.


The word Robot” in Czech language, meaning forced labour, has served as the root for the word Robotics. Per ISO 8373:2012, industrial robot is defined as an automatically controlled reprogrammable, multipurpose manipulator, programmable in three or more axes, which can be either fixed or mobile for use in industrial automation applications.

Robotics is known as an interdisciplinary field at the interface of computer science and engineering. Robotics involves design, construction, operation, and use of robots. The goal of Robotics is to design intelligent machines that can help and assist humans in their day-to-day lives and keep everyone safe. Robotics draws on the achievements of information and computer engineeringmechanical engineeringelectronic engineering and others.

There is evidence to show that mechanised human-like figures date back to ancient times, to Greece. The concept of an artificial man is found in works of fiction since the early 19th century. Despite these initial thoughts and representations, the dawn of the robotic revolution has begun in earnest in the 1950s. American inventor, George Devol, created the first digitally operated and programmable robot, named Unimate in 1954. This ultimately laid the foundation of the modern Robotics industry. Many significant and gigantic developments in the timeline of Robotics happened thereafter, which led to the modern commercial and industrial robots.

As an academic discipline

As an academic discipline, robotics is a relatively young field with highly ambitious goals, the ultimate one being the creation of machines that can behave and think like humans. This attempt to create intelligent machines naturally leads us first to examine ourselves – to ask, for example, why our bodies are designed the way they are, how our limbs are coordinated, and how we learn and perform complex tasks.


Modern commercial and industrial robots are widely used performing jobs more cheaply or with greater accuracy and reliability than humans. Robots are used for jobs which are too dirty, dangerous or dull to be suitable for humans. Robots are widely used in manufacturing industry, transport, earth and space exploration, surgery, weaponry and laboratory research.

One key feature of robots is the ability to learn from a human and play back. A skill of a well-trained painter, for example, can be transferred to a robot. This can be done by ‘teaching’ the robot through conducting a painting job by the skilled worker while holding the arm of the robot. The robot will learn all the movements, paths and forces applied by the human in doing the job and remember. Robot can repeat the painting work the same way as the skilled worker when instructed. Of course, some fine tunings need to be made before a perfect result can be achieved.

Applications in Everyday Life

Following are some examples of the use of Robotics in everyday life, further to their widespread use in different Industries:

  • Automated Transportation (Self-driving Robot)

The day is not that far when human drivers won’t be needed for driving vehicles. As a result, the accidents happening today due to human errors may be reduced.

  • Security, Defense, and Surveillance

Robot monitors homes when people are away from their homes. These Robots help people to monitor the skies, ground, and water from a remote location.

  • Medicine

Robots are capable of doing things which need precise and accurate performance. For drug delivery system (targeted drug delivery), robots can locally concentrate therapeutic payload (dosage of medicine) around pathological sites (where actually treatment is needed) so that they can reduce the dose of administrative drugs and side effects caused by them.

In the case of robotically-assisted minimally-invasive surgery, instead of directly moving the instruments, the surgeon uses one of two methods to administer the instruments. These include using a direct telemanipulator or through computer control, allowing the possibility for remote surgery.

  • Education

Robots can help the students attend their classes remotely. The robot performs as a person in the classroom which is controlled by the person himself. Robot’s cameras are his eyes, and its body is for interacting with other students and teachers. So, the person can see and do everything in the classroom that he wants to do, from a remote location.

There are many other areas in everyday life that Robots can and will be able to assist in the near future, including home maintenance, cooking and acting as friends to humans.

Future of Robotics

As technological developments have done in the past, the next generation of robots, utilising artificial intelligence and automation to streamline processes currently handled with the assistance of human workers, will significantly alter the job market.

Robotic engineers are designing the next generation of robots to look, feel and act more human, to make it easier for us to work with them. Realistic looking hair and skin with embedded sensors will allow robots to react naturally in their environment. For example, a robot that senses your touch on the shoulder and turns to greet you.


Dr. Gamini Padmaperuma, a Chartered Mechanical/Production Engineer and a former Senior Lecturer at OUSL, holds a PhD from the University of Canterbury in New Zealand in Instructional Design for Computer-Based Learning. Email:

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