More than half a century ago, science fiction writer Isaac
Asimov wrote the first of a series of books about robots. Early post-World War
Two was a time we now associate with incredible leaps in science - development
of early computers, jets travelling beyond the speed of sound and the start of
the roll-out of TV sets into homes. On the down side there were the Cold War
fears of the development of a nuclear bomb capable of wiping out the human
race. What might have been considered pure fiction a decade earlier was, by the
late 1940s, becoming reality. But even by those standards, Asimov's crystal
ball view of a future world of robots must have been seen by many as pure
fiction. Today, much of what he foresaw has eventuated. Some leading scientists
today are even taking seriously some of the warnings posed by Asimov.
A prolific author he acknowledged before his death that he
would be remembered for his Three Laws of Robotics. The laws stipulate that a
robot must not harm a human being or let one come to harm; that it must obey
the orders given to it by humans; and that it must protect its own existence.
The Asimov "robot laws" are a given in the realms of science fiction
and underpin a new mega-movie I, Robot, which has just opened in Australia and features
Will Smith and Bridget Moynahan. The movie was directed by Australian director,
Alex Proyas. When the filmmaker was growing up in Sydney, he lived and breathed
science fiction books and comics, apparently laying in bed looking up at the
stars and dreaming of futuristic worlds. "I loved the medium and I always
imagined I'd one day, hopefully, make science fiction movies and fantasy
movies,'' he said in Sydney at the Australian launch of I, Robot.
Director Alex Provas
This movie is influenced by the ideas of Asimov, the first
writer to seriously explore the science of robotics. I, Robot is set in Chicago
in 2035, where robots are commonplace and trusted because they are programmed
according to the Three Laws. The plot revolves around Sonny, a highly evolved
robot that thinks, feels and dreams - and that may have murdered its owner. Is
Sonny human or a killer machine?
We often think of robots as something from our future but we
have been surrounded by robots for centuries. Perhaps it all depends on your
definition but robots have been used to do menial work for us and amuse us
throughout the ages and will no doubt continue to do so. While we have not yet
created the robots with artificial intelligence envisaged by scientists and
science fiction writers like Isaac Asimov, we are creating more complex devices
Conduct a survey of a newsagency’s shelves to discover the number and type
of magazines associated with robots. Identify the selling techniques used
by these magazines to increase sales. Develop an example robot magazine
complete with advertising.
List all the famous robots you can think of that have appeared on TV or in
the cinema, e.g. K9, Tiny, Bicentennial Man and Terminator. Why do you
think they hold a fascination for us? Develop a new robot character for a
TV situation comedy. Describe its abilities and limitations, personal
characteristics and audience appeal. Provide an example plot for the first
Write a series of short instructions to program a museum security robot.
The security robot has light sensors, a motion detector and temperature
A robot has the ability to act and react on its own without human
intervention. Identify an area of your life where you could use a little
robotic help. Design your own purpose built robot with this ability, e.g.
music page turner, homework prompter, etc.
List the types of sensors employed by robots, e.g. light sensors, touch
sensors, temperature sensors, etc. Draw an annotated diagram to explain
how one of these work.
Many kids dream of having a robot to help them or keep them company.
Discuss if this is a dream or a realistic expectation. What components
would you need to create the simplest robot? How would it respond? Make a
2d plan or 3d model.
the environments where robots can work and the jobs they can do. For
example space – Pathfinder exploring Mars.
List the technological toys you play with at home, e.g. computer chess
game, Tamagotchi, Furby, Cybot, etc. Indicate those that have robotic
components or artificial intelligence. Draw a conclusion as to the
influence of robots in your leisure. What is the opinion of your parents
on how you spend your leisure?
There are a variety of battling robots you can build, watch or see on TV.
Write the rules for a robot battle. Form a team and decide on the type of
robot you would use and its weapon and defence for example slash and run
space within which a robot arm works is called its working envelope. Draw
and label the working envelopes of several types of robot arms, e.g.
jointed-arm robot, polar (spherical) robot, XYZ robot, cylindrical robot,
Spine robot. How can knowledge of the working envelope help designers and
How many ways does the human arm work? Design your own robot arm based on
arm and wrist movement. Include the dimensions and describe its working
Draw and write a comic strip featuring a robot. This could be a drama or a
Work in small groups to create a 3d model of a junkyard robot using
Robots Home Page
Learn about Robots
History of Robots in the 19th Century
History of Robots
Robots in the movies