written by: Terry Ligard
• edited by: Lamar Stonecypher
• updated: 6/28/2011
Robots are an essential part of technology today. However, most people overlook the similarities robots have with humans, in terms of a control center and a structure. Two key components of most robots are the brains, in the form of microcontroller chips, and the body.
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From an anatomical point of view, most robots generally have a brain, a body, a power source, sensors, and action and feedback mechanisms. Specifically, I would like to discuss the brains and body of a robot.
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Robot brains come in a wide variety of forms. In fact, some robots are built without brains and are controlled by people through remote control. Robots can also be built with a brain that is spread out in different parts of the robot. For instance, basic chips can be used to operate individual parts of the robot, such as an arm or leg, with these individual parts working independently of the other parts. Furthermore, robots can be built with brains that are located far away from its body, such as in a computer.
All things considered, the number one choice for robot brains is the microcontroller chip. Like the microprocessor chips found in computers, microcontrollers are similar, except that microcontroller chips are somewhat like a tiny computer themselves. A small amount of memory and storage space is built directly into the microcontroller chip. When comparing the microprocessor chips found in computers and microcontroller chips, the chips found in computers dedicate their channels to high speed memory connectors, whereas microcontroller chips have a much larger variety of input and output ports. These ports can connect to buttons, sensors, and other devices.
Although it may not seem evident, we are surrounded by microcontrollers. These useful chips are found in vehicles, household appliances such as dishwashers, VCRs, TVs, radios, and other home and work appliances. Fortunately, the high demand for these microcontroller chips has made these chips inexpensive and abundant.
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Although the body of a robot may seem unimportant in comparison to the other parts of a robot, many who attempt to build a robot fail to incorporate a framework into their design. Many who build homemade robots end up with robots that are too susceptible due to circuit boards that are exposed and wires sticking out. This usually leads to a robot that either collapses or moves unevenly. A proper frame for a robot not only ensures that the robot stays in one piece, but also protects the robot from injury. An excellent example of the use of a reliable framework is in a production line robot. These robots have special designs that enable them to efficiently operate in environments that most humans would find potentially dangerous. Production line robot design involves a certain number of axes that determines the versatility of the robot. However, it is the kinematics of the assembly line robot that determines the arrangement of the robot. Some parts of the robot are bolted together while others are welded together, allowing for both rigid and dynamic parts in the same robot. It is the kinematics of the framework of a production line robot that defines its purpose, whether for welding car parts together or lifting heavy loads.
Another underestimated aspect of a robot is the visual appeal. Those who desire to take up robot building as a hobby should learn that showmanship is critical in how others will view your robot. Despite the fact that a robot may be technically impressive, the finishing touches to the appearance of the robot is what draws attention. The M&M robot is an example of an attractive and innovative robot body design.