Good morning boys and girls,
The following article, forwarded from Eurekalert gave me such a warm and
fuzzy feeling that I just had to pass it on. What a way to start the day!
January 14, 2000
Robots are evolving, population is
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – The population
of robots nearly doubled over the last
decade in North America alone, and they
are becoming increasingly important in
applications ranging from quality control to
space exploration, surgery to the service
So says the most recent edition of the
"Handbook of Industrial Robotics,"
complete with a forward by late
science fiction writer Isaac Asimov
and contributions from 120 experts,
some of them giants in research and
industry. The term "industrial robots"
refers to all robots manufactured by
industry, not simply robots used in
The handbook's editor, Purdue University
industrial engineering professor Shimon
Nof, says robots have been steadily
evolving since the book's first edition was
published 15 years ago.
"It is interesting to see that the principles
we covered in the first edition are still
correct, but we know so much more," Nof
says. "We are getting to think about
coordination and collaboration among
machines and multi-robot system, and there
is even a section on group behavior of
robots, where different kinds of robots can
help each other perform certain jobs. The
importance of this second edition of the
handbook is to summarize where we are
Half of the chapters in the nearly
1,400-page handbook are new, including
one chapter on "human factors" in robotics.
"Maybe in 1985 it was just a vision to
integrate humans and robots," says Nof, who
specializes in "robot ergonomics," or
improving the ease and efficiency with
which people and robots work together.
"Today, it is quite common to have teams
that include both robots and people."
Examples of such integration include
applications in manufacturing, agriculture
and construction. Since the first edition of
the handbook, robotics has benefited from
innovations in technologies dealing with
electronic controls and sensors, computer
vision systems, virtual reality, artificial
intelligence, nanotechnology and other
At the same time, the field recently has seen
the emergence of new types of devices,
including tiny micro- and nano-robots and
robots with multiple arms or legs.
Meanwhile, popular attitudes about robots
have changed over the past 15 years, as
well, Nof says.
"The fear that robots would replace
workers has completely disappeared," he
says. Instead of displacing large numbers of
employees, robots have brought about a
more highly trained work force better
capable of running robots and computers.
"We have many more trained people in
robotics now," Nof says. "Some new
challenges for robotics researchers are
better human-robot collaboration interfaces,
robot mobility and navigation in unknown
surroundings, and better robot intelligence
for services and for public transportation."
The handbook, which sells for $150, was
published last summer by John Wiley &
Sons Inc. It is intended as an educational
resource for students, engineers and
managers and is accompanied by a
multimedia CD-ROM that includes
segments on the history of robotics and
descriptions of various types of robots,
along with pictures and videos.
Among some of the trends detailed in the
• The number of robots per 10,000
manufacturing employees skyrocketed from
1980 to 1996. For example, it went from 8.3
to 265 in Japan, 2 to 79 in Germany, 3 to 38
in the United States and zero to 98 in
• In roughly the same time frame, the world
robot population surged, going from about
35,000 in 1982 to 677,000 in 1996 and an
estimated 950,000 in the year 2000.
• In the five years from 1992 to 1997, the
robot population in North America shot up
78 percent, from 46,000 to 82,000.
Source: Shimon Nof, (765) 494-5427,
Writer: Emil Venere, (765) 494-4709,
Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;
Related Web sites:
Robotic Industries Association
Best, Jeff Davis
"Everything's hard till you know how to do it."
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