Nature of Robotics and Robotic Anatomy

By Akshdeep Singh Randhawa Robotics Engineer - Chironix | 3 March 2022

Robots are going to take the jobs of the future! This line has been spoken and heard by many of us in the last 5 years. The rise of autonomous robots and their applications in the industries have risen but does it really mean the need for humans will decrease? A roboticist would say no. 

The answer depends on how much a robotic system relies on a human to operate through a task. It is true that we have come a long way in the world of robotics and there has been a lot achieved in the past few years but to have a fully autonomous system (that requires zero input from any person) is very hard to achieve. As a result, a roboticist will always create solutions that aid or help a person rather than replace them.

Definition of a Robotic System

If a person explores the general anatomy of a robotic system, at the heart of it is a base or chassis, which comprises a battery, the motors, the wheels (if UGV) or rotors (if UAV) and a controller. The system in itself can be used by an operator to do tasks but the nature of such control will be fully manual. To make the base or chassis usable in a way that the input of the operator has to be reduced to minimum (or let’s say to make the robotics system smart), it needs to be aware of a few things. 

Generally, the robot should know what state it is in and what state the environment around it is in. The more information, the better is its understanding of these states. Such information is provided by various sensors that help the robot perceive the world around it. 

Lines Of Sight And Location

Each such sensor provides a different kind of data:

  • Lidar – to give points in a 3D space around the robot, giving it awareness of the environment around it. 
  • Camera – to show the image/video of the world in front or around it and can be put to use for remotely operating the robot. 
  • Depth Perception Camera – to further improve the robot's avoidance of obstacles. 
  • GPS – to precisely locate the robot's position in a given area. 

But all these sensors come with the cost of computation. The data provided by the sensors needs to be processed for the robot to make sense of it. Thus, comes the brain of such a system, which is usually a computer. 

The Interpretation and Communication

Depending on how many sensors are used, how much data needs to be processed and how fast the data is to be processed, the computer can vary in its form factor and computation power. To connect the sensors and the computer comes the network, which also lets the robot connect to the internet (if enabled) and talk to other operators which opens the possibility of remote operation. 

The software where you process the data is the key to a good robotics solution. There are few options, but the most widely used one by the industry and the community is ROS (Robot Operating System) — An open source middleware that lets a user process data coming from the robot's sensor and convert it into commands for the robot to follow. 

The benefits of ROS: 

  • It enables fast development with dependency management
  • It has built in msg types to facilitate various different sensor types 
  • It has a publisher-subscriber system that is easy to use and fast to develop on. 
  • Each process is managed as a node and all the data is communicated over topics with a distributed network.

Application of a Robotic System

The most widely used application for an autonomous robotic system is exploration and remote monitoring. Such use-case is seen in mining companies where human personnel have to deal with critical areas of threat and using a robot makes sense to avoid any harm to the humans and provide, in general, safety to the workers. The operators can remotely monitor gas leaks, critical failures to pipelines and much more without putting any human life at risk.

So, as much as we will be relying on robots to have a significant impact in our future, we’ll really be benefiting more from making them our teammates, rather than replace humans in the workforce. They will have the ability to sense their surroundings like we do; communicate with us and in turn, make our workplaces safer.

About Chironix

Chironix is a software development company specialized in the integration of robots into businesses across Asia-Pacific. Through our expertise in robotics and automation in complex environments, Chironix is making work safer and more efficient for businesses in the mining, defense and oil and gas sectors. Partners like AgileX enable us to explore and develop further into robotic systems and the use of UGVs in complex environments.

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