A robot is a mechanical or virtual artificial agent, usually an electro-mechanical machine that is guided by a computer program or electronic circuitry. Robots can be autonomous or semi-autonomous and range from humanoids such as Honda's Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility(ASIMO) and Tosy's TOSY Ping Pong Playing Robot (TOPIO) to industrial robots, collectively programmed 'swarm' robots, and even microscopic nano robots. By mimicking a lifelike appearance or automating movements, a robot may convey a sense of intelligence orthought of its own.
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. Many of today's robots are inspired by nature contributing to the field of bio-inspired robotics.
As mechanical techniques developed through the Industrial age, more practical applications were proposed by Nikola Tesla, who in 1898 designed a radio-controlled boat. Electronics evolved into the driving force of development with the advent of the first electronic autonomous robots created by William Grey Walter in Bristol, England in 1948. The first digital and programmable robot was invented by George Devol in 1954 and was named the Unimate. It was sold to General Motors in 1961 where it was used to lift pieces of hot metal from die castingmachines at the Inland Fisher Guide Plant in the West Trenton section of Ewing Township, New Jersey.
Robots have replaced humans in the assistance of performing those repetitive and dangerous tasks which humans prefer not to do, or are unable to do due to size limitations, or even those such as in outer space or at the bottom of the sea where humans could not survive the extreme environments.
There are concerns about the increasing use of robots and their role in society. Robots are blamed for rising unemployment as they replace workers in some functions. The use of robots in military combat raises ethical concerns. The possibility of robot autonomy and potential repercussions has been addressed in fiction and may be a realistic concern in the future.