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WIRED HANDS - A Brief Look at Robotics NEWSCIENCETwo years ago the Chrysler corporation completely gutted itsWindsor Ontario car assembly plant and within six weeks hadinstalled an entirely new factory inside the building It was amarvel of engineering When it came time to go to work a wholenew work force marched onto the assembly line There onopening day was a crew of 150 industrial robots Industrial robots dont look anything like the androids fromsci-fi books and movies They dont act like the evil Daleks or afusspot C-3P0 If anything the industrial robots toiling on theChrysler line resemble elegant swans or baby brontosauruseswith their fat squat bodies long arched necks and small headsAn industrial robot is essentially a long manipulator arm thatholds tools such as welding guns or motorized screwdrivers orgrippers for picking up objects The robots working at Chrysler and in numerous other modernfactories are extremely adept at performing highly specializedtasks - one robot may spray paint car parts while another doesspots welds while another pours radioactive chemicals Robotsare ideal workers they never get bored and they work around theclock Whats even more important theyre flexible By alteringits programming you can instruct a robot to take on differenttasks This is largely what sets robots apart from othermachines try as you might you cant make your washing machinedo the dishes Although some critics complain that robots arestealing much-needed jobs away from people so far theyve beengiven only the dreariest dirtiest most soul-destroying work The word robot is Slav in origin and is related to the words forwork and worker Robots first appeared in a play RossumsUniversal Robots written in 1920 by the Czech playwright KarelCapek The play tells of an engineer who designs man-likemachines that have no human weakness and become immenselypopular However when the robots are used for war they rebelagainst their human masters Though industrial robots do dull dehumanizing work they arenevertheless a delight to
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