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In practical usage, a robot is a mechanical device which performs automated tasks, either according to direct human supervision, a pre-defined program or, a set of general guidelines, using artificial intelligence techniques. These tasks either replace or enhance human work, such as in manufacturing, construction or manipulation of heavy or hazardous materials.

A robot may include a feedback-driven connection between sense and action, not under direct human control. The action may take the form of electro-magnetic motors or actuators that move an arm, open and close grips, or propel the robot. The step by step control and feedback is provided by a computer program run on either an external or embedded computer or a microcontroller. By this definition, a robot may include nearly all automated devices.

Alternately, robot has been used as the general term for a mechanical man, or an automaton resembling an animal, either real or imagined. It has come to be applied to many machines which directly replace a human or animal in work or play. In this way, a robot can be seen as a form of biomimicry. Anthropomorphism is perhaps what makes us reluctant to refer to the highly complex modern washer-dryer as a robot. However, in modern understanding, the term implies a degree of autonomy that would exclude many automatic machine tools from being called robots. It is the search for ever more highly autonomous robots which is the major focus of robotics research and which drives much work in artificial intelligence.

See also
Speech Recognition
Expert Systems

Other resources
International Federation of Robotics

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