Autonomous robot

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Autonomous robots are robots that can perform desired tasks in unstructured environments without continuous human guidance. Many kinds of robots have some degree of autonomy. Different robots can be autonomous in different ways. A high degree of autonomy is particularly desirable in fields such as space exploration, cleaning floors, mowing lawns, and waste water treatment.

Some modern factory robots are "autonomous" within the strict confines of their direct environment. It may not be that every degree of freedom exists in their surrounding environment, but the factory robot's workplace is challenging and can often contain chaotic, unpredicted variables. The exact orientation and position of the next object of work and (in the more advanced factories) even the type of object and the required task must be determined. This can vary unpredictably (at least from the robot's point of view).

One important area of robotics research is to enable the robot to cope with its environment whether this be on land, underwater, in the air, underground, or in space.

A fully autonomous robot has the ability to

  • Gain information about the environment.
  • Work for an extended period without human intervention.
  • Move either all or part of itself throughout its operating environment without human assistance.
  • Avoid situations that are harmful to people, property, or itself unless those are part of its design specifications.

An autonomous robot may also learn or gain new capabilities like adjusting strategies for accomplishing its task(s) or adapting to changing surroundings.

Autonomous robots still require regular maintenance, as do other machines.

Contents

Examples of progress towards commercial autonomous robots

Self-maintenance

The first requirement for complete physical autonomy is the ability for a robot to take care of itself. Many of the battery powered robots on the market today can find and connect to a charging station, and some toys like Sony's Aibo are capable of self-docking to charge their batteries.

Self maintenance is based on "proprioception", or sensing one's own internal status. In the battery charging example, the robot can tell proprioceptively that its batteries are low and it then seeks the charger. Another common proprioceptive sensor is for heat monitoring. Increased proprioception will be required for robots to work autonomously near people and in harsh environments.

  • Common proprioceptive sensors are

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