Robots have a long and storied history: The first drawings of humanoid robots date back to the Italian Renaissance and to the quill of no other than Leonardo da Vinci. According to our more modern definition, robots are autonomous systems that can interact with their environment without human intervention, and their history is only just beginning.
As robots have evolved, they have become more and more autonomous, accelerated in the recent past in particular by the aggressive pace of developments in the automotive industry and the arrival of more and more powerful computers, smartphones, and internet connections. More autonomy allows completely new areas of application. Since the first industrial robots began completing relatively simple and rigidly defined tasks in the 1970s, they have been taking over increasingly complex jobs with every generation. The development is moving away from robots operating in defined environments to robots recognizing and engaging with the world around them and from robots communicating in a set number of ways and executing pre-programmed scripts to robots learning and adapting to human behaviour and social norms. The potential uses of robots in service roles are legion, with revenue expected to more than double between 2017 and 2021 and soon match the $19 billion spent on industrial robots.
To live up to these great expectations, development work needs to continue on the most important robot components, including sensors and actuators, communication modules, energy supplies, and the addition of artificial intelligence. Fraunhofer IZM is not attempting to reinvent the robot, but to contribute to this development in the areas of its expertise, in particular the optimization of energy supplies, navigation and exploration, brain-computer interfaces, and robot-to-robot interactions and communication in robot swarms.
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