In this article, we'll cover:
We'll then branch into the 5 main types of robots which are classified by their kinematics, namely:
What is a robot?
A robot is a machine that can be programmed to perform a series of complex tasks, whether remotely controlled or automatically. Robots can be used across a wide variety of industries, including:
Let's go through the different types of robots available.
Autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) are robots that can move on their own without the need for predetermined tracks or assistance from human workers. They can skillfully navigate their environments by using sensors, cameras, and mapping technology. AMRs are commonly used in logistics and warehousing for:
Automated guided vehicles (AGVs) are robotic vehicles that follow preset paths or tracks. They are guided by sensors or markers along the ground, magnetic strips, or lasers. AGVs are designed for precise and repetitive tasks. These are widely used for logistics and warehousing tasks such as loading and unloading trucks.
Articulated robots are multi-jointed robots that resemble a human's arm. They can have as little as two or as many as 10 rotary joints that allow for freedom of movement. They are highly versatile and capable of complex movements in various directions. These robots are often used in the automotive industry for assembly and sorting. They work well in confined spaces too.
SCARA stands for Selective Compliance Assembly Robot Arm. They have a unique mechanical structure, consisting of two parallel arms that are connected to a joint at a right angle. This allows SCARA bots to move in horizontal lines, and they're known for their high speeds and reliability. SCARA robots are often used in manufacturing and assembly processes, such as pick-and-place operations.
Also known as Gantry robots, Cartesian robots operate similarly to that of a 3D grid. Their versatility offers precise control over linear movements. They're used in pick-and-place tasks, CNC machining, and 3D printing.
Humanoid robots are designed to resemble human beings, both in their form and how they move. They are two-legged robots that have arms, a torso, and a head. They are programmed (with artificial intelligence) to interact with the environment in a human-like manner and often have facial features to express emotion and human behavior.
Humanoid robots can be used as Entertainment robots or provide companionship. Hanson Robotics' Sophia is an example of a humanoid robot.
Collaborative robots, otherwise known as Cobots for short, are robots specifically designed to work alongside humans in a shared workspace. They are equipped with sensors and safety features to detect and respond to human presence. These are used in small-scale manufacturing, research labs, and healthcare, to name a few. An example of a Collaborative robot is the Universal Robot's UR5e.
These robots come in many shapes and forms and are often used in sectors such as:
Industrial robots are highly specialized types of robots, designed for industrial and large-scale operations. They are used to perform tasks that involve automation, precision, and often mundane and repetitive tasks within factories, warehouses, and the like.
The KUKA KR 6 is one type of Industrial robot.
Service robots are designed to provide assistance, perform basic tasks, and offer services to humans in various settings outside of the industrial workplace. Service robots are quite intelligent and are required to interact with human beings on a daily basis.
They can be either autonomous (work automatically) or semi-autonomous. These robots are often used in hospitals, hospitality, and logistics. The Knightscope K5 is a type of service robot.
As the name suggests, Medical robots are used within the healthcare and medical industry. They are used to enhance patient care and improve the precision of medical procedures. They can work autonomously or alongside healthcare professionals. Medical robots, such as the Da Vinci Surgical System, are widely used for minimally invasive procedures.
Exoskeleton robots are a type of medical robot used for rehabilitation purposes. They are wearable devices, such as the HAL Robot Suit, and assist patients with various rehabilitation therapies. These are specifically helpful if an individual has mobility impairments or is recovering after major surgery (e.g. hip replacement).
Domestic robots, also referred to as home robots, are a type of robot designed to perform tasks and function around the house. Some are equipped with sensors and artificial intelligence that enable them to work automatically, reducing the need for human intervention. The tasks that these robots perform range from cleaning to entertainment and security.
Military robots are tough and rugged robots that can withstand harsh and dangerous conditions. US troops have used PackBots (ground robots) when searching for explosive devices during wartime and AlphaDog, a type of four-legged robot, to carry and pull heavy loads and gear.
Disaster response robots are highly specialized robots that perform dangerous, hazardous tasks. They are used to search for survivors in the aftermath of emergencies. These robots are tough and can withstand harsh conditions such as moisture, fire, and debris.
For example, the Quince and Elios bots are used to inspect dangerous areas, navigating the rescue scene with precision and ease.
Construction robots are used to automate various tasks on construction sites, such as bricklaying, pouring concrete, and demolition work. What sets these robots apart is their unique design to operate in difficult and risky conditions. Their tough exteriors enhance productivity and safety protocols on working sites. The SAM100 is an example of such a robot.
Educational robots assist students in their learning journey, particularly in subjects like science, technology, engineering, and math. These robots are equipped with sensors and cameras and use light, movement, and sound to help students learn coding and problem-solving skills. Popular Educational robots include Dash And Dot, Root, and Makeblock mBot.
Logistic robots are mainly used in warehousing, usually AMR and AGV types. They can efficiently pick and pack orders, load and unload trucks for shipments, and assist with inventory management. These types of robots can operate autonomously or work alongside human workers in the workplace. Their aim is to streamline operations and boost productivity.
Also referred to as Agrobots, Agricultural robots are advanced machines designed for farming and agricultural work. They can plant and harvest crops, monitor soil conditions, and tend to livestock. The use of these machines in farming can dramatically reduce workloads and increase productivity.
Social robots are designed to engage with human beings. They are highly programmed robots that can assist with managing shopping lists and daily reminders and can provide companionship. They are equipped with speech mechanisms and there have been numerous efforts to make Social robots more commercially available, such as the Jibo model.
Consumer robots are similar to service robots, as they provide a 'service'. These are mainly used in domestic settings. The Roomba self-vacuuming bot and the Tertill self-weeding bot are popular household consumer devices.
Hybrid robots are a combination of two or more robots into one type of robot. For example, a hybrid robot could combine the mobility of an AMR with the precision of an articulated robotic arm.
The roots of robotics can be traced back hundreds of years, as seen in Leonardo da Vinci's sketches depicting various mechanical creations.
Today, robots have become far more intelligent when compared to their earlier editions. However, the technologies from yesteryear have shaped and molded the innovative inventions seen today. In the twenty-first century, robots are revolutionizing the way we manufacture goods, perform surgeries, and even bottle and label medications.
Starting as simple devices, the now highly advanced computing systems have played a crucial role in bridging the gap between manual labor and automation. They significantly improve efficiency and productivity across a wide range of industries.
Nanobots are incredible microscopic robots that are injected into an individual's body. They have the potential to navigate the human body after being injected with a standard syringe.
These fascinating microbots are 70 microns in length (equivalent to the width of a fine human hair) and assist in various functions, such as delivering medication or targeting disease sites within the body.
The University of Vermont has developed the first "living robot", called Xenobots. This type of 'robot' was created by scientists in a lab whereby they crossed stem cells taken from frog embryos with computing algorithms. Xenobots are fascinating robots that have blurred the lines between robots and humans.
They have the potential for various applications, including environmental cleanups, and perhaps one day could assist in medical procedures.
The US Army Robot Dog is a hybrid robot. It is a cross between a quadrupedal (four-limbed) legged robot with a Collaborative robot. This type of military robot has a sniper rifle attached and was designed to assist US troops in the field. It is said to be able to engage with a target from three-quarters of a mile away but will only fire under human control.
These types of robots have created a space where wartime deployment can be reduced and robots can be engaged remotely.
Biomimetic robots are fascinating robots that are designed to mimic nature, such as plants or animals, in the real world. Some are designed to recreate how birds fly or how insects crawl. Scientists and engineers use this collected data for research or to learn new and innovative ways for their designs, such as building better flying machines.
Festo, a German company, has created a kangaroo biomimetic robot to study how kangaroos jump and conserve their energy levels. Georgia's Institute of Technology has created the SlothBot to monitor and collect environmental data, such as carbon dioxide levels and temperature. Pretty fascinating stuff.
The Autonomous Weeder is a type of industrial Agricultural robot that can pull out 100,000 weeds per hour. It is equipped with powerful lasers that eliminate unwanted weeds across huge areas of farmers' land. This new farming approach results in cost savings, eliminates the need for harmful pesticides, and ensures that crops remain healthy.
The various types of robots can be classified and broken into their various kinematics. This refers to their mechanical functions or properties. There are 5 types of robots that usually fall within the 'robot umbrella'.
But what are these different types of robots?
Stationary robots mean exactly what the name suggests: they are stationary. These robotic systems typically have a robotic arm attached to a stationary base or fixed location, allowing them to perform tasks within their designated workspace.
There are various types of stationary robots, each used for specific tasks, such as:
As the name suggests, wheeled robots have wheels, thus making them mobile. These can be:
Some examples of wheeled robots are Autonomous robots, Warehouse robots, and Delivery robots.
Legged robots have articulating (moving) robotic arms and limbs and are able to move around, often seen as:
Swimming robots - often called Underwater robots, autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs), or remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) - are robotic systems designed to operate underwater. They're specifically built to navigate and perform tasks beneath the surface of the water and can be operated by a remote control.
The characteristics of Swimming robots include:
The dive depth of Swimming robots can vary. Some are designed for shallow water and others are capable of exploring the deep ocean. These robots are often used for marine research, oceanography, and maritime industries.
The AgnathaX is an example of a Swimming robot.
Flying robots, often called drones or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), are robotic systems designed for flight. They are equipped with various sensors, cameras, and control mechanisms that enable them to fly and perform tasks autonomously or remotely controlled by humans.
Flying robots can be used in a variety of professions, from film and photography to search and rescue missions. Raven drones are an example of flying Military robots used for aerial reconnaissance. Courier company USP also initiated the first US drone-operated vaccine delivery robot during the global Covid-19 pandemic.
As mentioned, Industrial robots are used within industrial or large-scale manufacturing settings. It's become pretty hard to picture modern-day car factories without the use of robotic machinery. In times when skilled workers are hard to find, automated factories could be your answer!
Industrial robots can be stationary - as seen in the SCARA, cartesian, and spherical types - or they can be autonomous, where they move freely around the factory floor (i.e. warehouse robots).
Industrial robots are versatile and tough robots, used for a wide range of tasks. Their mechanics allow for continuous repetition, done with meticulous precision. They enhance efficiency, boost productivity, and reduce the risk of injuries for humans. These types of robots are used across many industries, such as:
Service robots, on the other hand, are used outside of industrial settings, often in hospitals and retail. They are designed to interact and assist humans in a range of tasks. In hospitality, service robots can act as concierges while in healthcare, they can assist with patient care. Retail robots can assist with inventory control and customer service while Cleaning robots maintain hygiene in public spaces.
Service robots streamline daily operations with ease and are great at performing mundane, routine, and repetitive tasks, such as:
Medical robots have emerged as phenomenal tools within the realms of healthcare, with applications spanning from surgical procedures to diagnoses and rehabilitation.
These types of robots, as mentioned, can operate on their own.
Semi-autonomous vehicles can only move with predetermined tracks or programs of their environment, while fully automated robots use their built-in sensors and cameras to navigate their surroundings with ease. Autonomous robots often use artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms to make real-time decisions.
Warehouse robots are autonomous types that can perform tasks such as loading and unloading orders for shipment, order picking, and logistics. Palletizing robots are another popular autonomous robot used in warehousing. These strong robots eliminate the risk of injury and fulfill tasks in an orderly manner.
Drones and self-driving motorcars would fall into this type of robot category.
Collaborative robots, called Cobots, are types of robots designed to work alongside human beings. Unlike traditional Industrial robots that are usually stuck behind safety cages, Cobots have built-in safety features (i.e. sensors, etc.) that allow them to work in close proximity to humans.
Collaborative robots can be used in various industries, from automotive to healthcare. They improve productivity and assist in tasks such as quality inspections and assembly, where a keen human eye is often still necessary.
Standard Bots RO1 is one of the most advanced and affordable Six-Axis robots available today. Its advanced functionality, better payload capacity, joint speed, and camera vision overtake the competition. With an intuitive touchscreen interface and no codes required, RO1 is quick to set up and easy enough for anyone to use!
RO1's programmable vision system, higher-level API, OnRobot grippers, and universal M8 4- and 8-pin connectors allow it to perform the most complex inspection tasks with ease. The RO1 automates real-world applications with unreal simplicity, every time.
Research robots can be used in a wide range of areas. Space robots can explore and study the outer universe, Biomimetic robots like the SlothBot are used to study and research various environments, and Underwater robots are used to research the depths of the ocean.
Entertainment robots are designed to create an emotional response, such as laughing or feeling surprised. For example, Disney's Na'vi Shaman bot welcomes guests as they enter The World Of Avatar at their Animal Kingdom theme park.
Modular robots are Rehabilitation robots. They assist patients recovering from various conditions such as stroke, paralysis, brain injury, orthopedic surgeries, and multiple sclerosis. They monitor patient's progress while they perform certain exercises, measure degrees of motion, and interact with patients to provide emotional support and encouragement.
Medical robots have many advantages such as optimizing workflows and assisting with medical procedures. Medical bots can be used to reduce patient recovery times, assist with rehabilitation, administer medications, and transport medical supplies between hospital departments. Teleoperated robots allow doctors to reach patients in underserved areas, providing better medical assistance for all.
So there you have it, a comprehensive rundown of the different types of robots. From their humble beginnings in the 1700s to the advanced mechanisms we see today; robots are revolutionizing the modern world, with many yet to be invented.
Manufacturing robots have shaped the automotive industry, surgical robots are performing microscopic procedures, logistics robots are streamlining and optimizing workflows, and military robots are being used instead of soldiers - what a fascinating and innovative time we are living in!