Tuesday December 9, 2003 The term 'robot' has been in existence for a short time - it was first used in 1920 by Czechoslovakian playwright Karel Capek and comes from the Czech robota, which means 'tedious labor.'One hundred years hence, in 2020, analysts project that most households will own a robot, or at least be considering one. Robotics is already a US$8 billion industry globally, but mostof the robots in use today are industrial robots employed in manufacturing for welding, painting and assembly line tasks. The consumer robotics marketplace is just emerging, with a gross of US$600 million in 2002, comprised mainly of programmable robots which mow lawns, clean floors and amuse children.

But momentum is growing and with expertise concentrated in one spot (Japan) and reducing manufacturing costs the genuinely useful, autonomous household robot is almost upon us.According to projections from UNEC the personal robotics industry will have grown to US$5.4 billion by 2005 and to US$17.1 billion by 2010 - spectacular growth indeed, but humble by comparison to the following decade.


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A quarter century from now, the robotics industry is expected to rival the automobile and computer industries in both dollars and jobs.This next generation of robots will be capable of interacting with humans on a sophisticated level, making decisions, helping, caring and giving companionship.

Gizmag has written in depth about many such prototype robots from NEC, Sony, Honda, Tsmuck, Evolution Robotics, Epson, Fujitsu, Mitsubishi and Sanyo.


The Laws of Robotics

In 1942 Isaac Asimov defined the 'Three Laws of Robotics' in the book 'Runaround.' He added a fourth at a later date once he'd thought a bit more.

LAW 0:

A robot may not injure humanity or, through inaction,allow humanity to come to harm (added later).

LAW 1:

A robot may not injure a human being, or, throughinaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

LAW 2:

A robot must obey the orders given it by human beingsexcept where such orders would conflict with the First Law.

LAW 3:

A robot must protect its own existence as long as suchprotection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.