Robot means a mechanical device which performs all or more works for human with maximum efficiency and low cost even in hostile environments under the command of the masters. Living organism on the earth other than trees are the best examples of natural robots. Human and animals also act as robots throughout their life with a brain control whose activities are governed by many seen and unseen forces around. There are examples that human or animals perform activities very much under the command of their masters e.g., terrorists or their sleeping cells, and many more such activities which we perform on daily basis on other’s commands. The difference between manmade robots and natural robots is that they do whatever they are made to do without any complaint, with desired accuracy, honesty, low cost, punctuality, less time consuming, in hostile environments and untiringly. There are many examples in Indian mythology highlighting the existence of human or animal robots from classical times. In Ramayana, acting of Maricha as a deer on the orders of King Ravna to attract the attention of Lord Rama is one of many such examples where human has acted on the command of their master’s even by changing disguise. Therefore, today's robotics is an advanced inspiration by nature contributing to the field of robotics to bio-inspired robotics.
Scientifically, robotics is a mix of many engineering disciplines like mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, electronics and computer science that deals with the design, construction, operation, and application of robots, as well as computer systems for their control, sensory feedback, and information processing. These technologies deal with automated machines that can take the place of human in dangerous environments or manufacturing processes, or resemble human in appearance, behavior, and/or cognition. Robots can replace human to do any monotonous, dirty or dangerous tasks in any industry. The concept of creating machines that can operate autonomously dates back to classical times, but research into the functionality and potential uses of robots did not grow substantially until the 20th century. Since the turn of the 20th century, research into the functionality and potential uses of robots has seen a lot of action. Throughout history, it has been frequently assumed that robots will one day be able to mimic human behavior and manage tasks in a human-like fashion. Today, robotics is a rapidly growing field, as technological advances continue; researching, designing, and building new robots serve various practical purposes, whether domestically, commercially, or militarily. Many robots do jobs that are hazardous to people such as defusing bombs, mines and exploring shipwrecks.
Robots can also be effective in areas where there are skill shortages. Significant application opportunities exist in the emerging service robotics sectors, whose products will impact on our everyday lives by contributing high-value-added services and providing safer working conditions. In the fields of medical diagnosis, therapy and rehabilitation, robot-based systems will assist health workers performing novel procedures, thereby increasing their effectiveness. The aging population will drive the application of robotic technologies that improve the quality of life and assist people to live longer and more comfortably in their own homes. Robotic technologies, such as navigation, motion control and sensing and cognition, will enable a broad range of innovations in today’s products resulting, for example, in more flexible, environmentally friendly transport systems and intelligent household appliances. Eventually these technologies will reach levels of sophistication which will enable widespread use of intelligent robots and robotic devices to perform a variety of tasks in homes, offices and public places. Driven by the increased security needs of Indian citizens and the higher workload resulting from extended monitoring of our everyday environments, robots already play an increasing role in the security market. Tele-operated mobile systems are now being used in a number of security applications including bomb disposal. In the future, robots will autonomously assist with the protection of offices and homes, and will help secure borders or monitor the environment in both routine and emergency operations. In space, the use of robots has become almost obligatory. Both unmanned and manned missions, be it in earth orbit or interplanetary, will be preceded or augmented by robots. In addition, the technologies applicable to space robotics will enable a wide range of earth-based exploration and material-processing activities from automated undersea inspection to mining and mineral extraction under hazardous conditions.
Robotic activities and its potential
India is an upcoming potential market for industrial robotics industry with a worldwide market share of approximately 15 per cent. With suitable stimulation and investment in the key underlying technologies, a broad range of robotics activities can be enabled. Key to this is the identification of first-wave technologies that will drive early markets. Industrial robots form an essential part of the current manufacturing sector of India. Without the use of robotics technologies or cost-effective production, a pillar of emerging Indian wealth would not be possible. Furthermore, robot-based production increases product quality, improves work conditions and leads to an optimized use of resources. The miniaturization of robotic technologies and newly developed sensing capabilities mean that these benefits are becoming applicable to an even wider range of manufacturing industries, including those with small and varying lot sizes, materials and product geometries.
Robots are required everywhere to improve productivity. The automation industry is a big consumer of Robotic technology. Using such technology, the quality of products and processes improve considerably. Industries across a range of sectors such as automotive, atomic energy, defense, space, metals, textiles and manufacturing use Robotic technologies very extensively. Robots are also being used in operation theatres and rehabilitation centres to augment the quality of life. Developed countries like Japan and America have been using robots to clean rooms, entertain etc. Robotics has opened up a plethora of opportunities for both entrepreneurs and students. Therefore, it is an ever growing field and many avenues have opened up in recent past. Therefore, students who have the required skill sets will be favoured by such industries. There are a number of people, institutes/universities and industries working in the field of robotics. The Indian Underwater Robotics Society or IURS (registered as Intelligent Unmanned Robotics Society) is India's first and only non-profit research organization for the advancement of low-cost robotics and intelligent systems research in developing countries. Ever since its inception in 2004, IURS has made many contributions towards furthering robotics education and research in India through involvement with government, universities and local and international organizations. IURS also imparts education in it is focus areas to improve understanding of and representation in intelligent systems research within developing countries. IURS has held the distinction of being the first Indian team to design India's first operational AUV to compete at the AUVSI's International Autonomous Underwater Vehicle Competition.
Robotics Society of India is an academic society founded on July 10, 2011 aimed at promoting Indian robotics and automation activities. The society hopes to serve as a bridge between researchers in institutes, government research centers and industry. Robotics has established an attractive place in almost all student technical events all over the country. There is an Indian Institute of Robotics in the country and is run by young engineers who are equipped with latest technological advancements in the field of robotics and automation industry. Besides, almost all top notch technological institutes/colleges in the country have laboratories especially dedicated to robotics and many departments are particularly related to the branch of robotics or it is an integral part of other disciplines like mechanical, electrical, electronics and computer science and engineering. Many new projects on robotics are being displayed by the students of all level in such activities throughout the country. There are good efforts in IIT’s and other engineering colleges being funded and supported by many institutes and government science and technology departments to work on robotic related projects which shall provide the spark for home grown entrepreneurs.
In industries, most of the tasks are being considered as dull, dirty and dangerous for human beings and as such utilizing Robotics and automation in these sectors would improve productivity, safety as well as the quality of the end product. Human operators can then take up more value added roles in the industry. Robotics and automation has the potential to revolutionize the industrial scenario. It promises to bring the same result as computer systems have brought in services and other sectors. However, many developing nations including India are still to adopt robotics and automation in a big way. Considering the gap and opportunity, industries are rapidly going for automation with its different advantages and thus have given a great stress on robotics as an integral part of their innovation centers in the industries itself. They are investing huge amount on the design and development technologies associated with robotics. Industries like Thinklabs, robosoftsystems, iRobot, PARI robotics and many more are actively pursuing the innovation, developments and implementation projects in the field of robotics.
Future of robotics
There is no denying that Robotic technologies are all set to change the way things are done in the industries in which they are being implemented. All the entrepreneurs are clearly optimistic about the use of Robotics in various industrial segments and its future in India. Robotics will capture industries like manufacturing, pharmaceutical, packaging and inspection. A bit of Robotics would also be seen in the healthcare sector primarily in the form of assistive and skill development technologies. The other promising sectors are defense and education. Robotics has opened the burgeoning opportunities but there are still many challenges that this field faces in an Indian scenario. In India, need is to come up with a world class product in the Robotics industry with deep specialization in server engineering, electrical, embedded programming and mechanical engineering (with focus on design, manufacturing and materials). Someone wishing to get into the Robotics industry must have a wide variety of skills and a thorough understanding of system control along with system integration and those who are passionate about Robotics from any field of engineering can be a part of a team working on a particular Robotics project. Talking about the sectors that are best suited for the adoption of Robotics are those with large volumes, frequent demand spikes or are prone to frequent audits/quality checks. Also industries where the volumes are huge enough to occupy large real estate are also prime candidates for Robotics. This makes automation ideal for sectors like retail, pharma, e-commerce, automobile spares and engineering tools. Having said that, Robotics is applicable in almost all sectors that need to store, assemble and transport physical products. DIY robots and UAV research platforms are the need of the hour to make robotics more popular in India. Forecasting the adoption of Robotics in India in the future, due to globalization and high industrialization, Robotics in India is poised for a bright future. Considering that India is already a manufacturing hub catering to the whole world, the use of robots in every aspect of manufacturing will provide the necessary edge to companies. In turn this will propel the requirement of skilled manpower for this technology. Modern robotics engineers are confronted with the task of developing machines that interact with their creators in modes of increasing compatibility.
A good way to illustrate the state of robotics in India would be to say that we are today where China was 4 years ago and Europe approximately 10 years ago. The use of robotics in developed countries has grown even in the domain of autonomous robots and service robots but in India even industrial robots are still to really come of age. Despite having numerous challenges, the robotics industry in India is confident of higher growth with States like Gujarat, Haryana and Maharashtra are attracting more investments from the automotive industry. Among the many challenges that plague the Robotics field in India, the primary ones among them have to do with the high cost of adoption, availability of skilled talent and procurement of hardware components. The cost of adopting Robotic technology is very high due to the cost of procuring imported hardware components as well as training personnel. As Robotics is a multidisciplinary field, acquiring and retaining quality talent is a big issue. The capital-intensive nature of Robotics adoption when compared to the low cost of human labour clearly tips the scale in favour of the latter. From an academic perspective, some of the challenges coming in the way of Robotics in an Indian scenario are as:
1. As Robotics is multidisciplinary in nature, barring students in the top schools in India, the others lack the knowledge required in four to five engineering disciplines to become an expert in this field. Also most of the students develop projects that already exist in the public domain.
2. Scarcity of good faculty to teach the subject
3. Barring a few regions and technological/engineering institutes in India, Robotics as a subject is not taught well to the engineering students
4. There is the absence of hardware companies that can cater to the industry and the dependence on countries like China, USA and Europe to procure the necessary components is a major stumbling block.