Robots are divided into categories: Mobile robots, service robots, industry robots and humanoid robots. The process began with industry robots that entered the world of the automotive industry at the latest in the 1970s. In the course of the years their sophisticated and continually evolving technology has formed the technological basis for other robot classes.
Mobile robots transport or locate goods and persons or are used as technology carriers. In both cases the biggest challenge are large distances or operating ranges in environments which are not restricted or prepared. To tackle this, corresponding technological systems and methods such as autonomous navigation, mapping as well as path and motion planning are used.
The open environment of mobile robots and their movement is not restricted to land. Mobile robots can also move in the air, at sea and under water. Progress in the development of algorithms, increased computing power as well as the availability of cheap sensors for positioning and environment recognition have given mobile robotics a big boost over the last years and lead to mobile platforms being increasingly used for tasks in private surroundings.
The focus of service robotics lies on the performance of semi-automatic and fully automatic services for humans and facilities. Service robots are characterized by a high degree of interaction with their changeable but clearly defined environment in which they work autonomously and interact with humans.
The interaction with humans takes place, inter alia, where robots are entrusted with or support social tasks. This can be the case in work areas such as in catering, leisure time or the health care industry. For example, there are highly complex motion tasks involved with helping a bedridden patient without harm and individually from the bed or into the bed.
Since the late 1970s at the latest industry robots are an indispensable element in the manufacturing industries. No production line in the automotive industry can be imagined without them any more. Their use has contributed significantly to an increase in productivity and has turned them into an essential tool in modern industrial countries.
Collaborating robots (so called cobots) which are equipped with innovative interaction capabilities form a booming segment in industrial robotics. Their ability to cooperate amongst each other, with other machines and with humans will open up an array of new fields of application.
With this collaboration focus is increasingly on the topic of “Vision”. Visual perception via optical sensors gives industry robots, which are actually “blind”, the capability to adjust their motion dynamically and immediately to the changed surrounding conditions and even perform challenging visual inspection tasks.
Humanoid robots are characterized by kinematics recreated from the human locomotor system. A big challenge is to operate multiple axes for hands, arms and legs at the same time. Walking upright is a specific task that does not occur with other robot types. Another challenge is to reproduce cognitive skills of humans.
The handling effort of humanoid robots is much bigger than that of other robot types. At the moment the humanoid robots available are still far from the physical and mental performance of a human, even if developments in some functional areas are promising.
It is to be expected that artificial machine intelligence will continue to develop consistently over the next years. The developments in this field will not only drastically expand the areas of application for humanoid robots but for all other robot types as well.