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    Exploratory Workshop on the Social Impacts of Robotics

INDUSTRIAL ROBOT TECHNOLOGY AND PRODUCTIVITY IMPROVEMENT

James S. Albus Industrial Systems Division National Bureau of Standards

Robots

have

received

a

great

deal

of

publicity

recently.

The “The

movie “Star Six Million

Wars” and several television series such as

Dollar

Man”

and

“The

Bionic

Woman”

have

raised robots.

the The

consciousness of enormous influx of

the public to the subject foreign cars manufactured

of in

part

by

robots has aroused

politicians

to

the

fact

that

awareness of the robots can have

press and many a profound ef-

fect that

on the

industrial productivity. robot revolution is well

Many under

people today believe

way,

that

factories

are

human quite

full

of

armies of highly intelligent robots,

workers are different.

being

displaced

in

droves.

The

and

facts

that are

First of all, there are only about 3000 robots installed in

the

entire

country,

secondly,

the great majority

are quite primitive,

with no capacity to

see

respond

to

their

environment

in

any

significant

or way.

of these feel or

Most people

think of a

talks, sees

and feels,

robot as an android, which walks

and

looks

much

like

C3P0,

or

at

and

least

R2D2.

Real robots are much more primitive.

In its simplest

form

a

robot is nothing more than a mechanical device that

can be programmed to

or is

locomotion under a device that can

perform some useful automatic control.

act of manipulation An industrial robot

be

programmed

to

move

some

gripper

or

tool task.

through

space so as to accomplish a useful industrial

These robots are typically programmed by recording each task

as a series of points ply replayed whenever

in space.

the

task

is

This recording is

to

be

performed.

then

sim-

This simple procedure is adequate to number of industrial tasks, from spot

perform

a surprising

welding

automobile bo-

dies,

tending

die

casting

machines,

loading

and

unloading

machine

tools

and

presses,

spray

painting,

and

performing

a

wide variety of materials handling tasks. Even arc welding can be performed by a robot which can

nei-

ther see nor feel, so long as the parts to be welded are po- sitioned in exactly the right place, and the welding parame- ters are controlled by some automatic system.

However, the great majority of industrial tasks

the are

capacities of present day robot

too

complex

and

unstructured,

technology. or involve

Most

tasks

too

many

are

beyond

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