The Evolution of Robots: From R.U.R. to Modern


Robots are intelligent artificially created electro-mechanical devices. They are designed by human beings to assist in performing some activities that are considered tiresome and boring and at risky situation. The capabilities of a robot are determined by the purpose for which they are created. The human-robot interaction has been one of pro and con and this interaction has led to some conflicts and debate has been going on as to the rights that robots should have . The essay outlines a brief history of how robots technologies were developed.

They are traced back to 1920 when the first person to use the word robot wasn't a scientist, but a playwright.

Czechoslovakian writer Karel Capek first used the word robot in his satirical play, R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots). And  industrial robots have undergone many developments since the arrival of the first Unimation machine in 1962. The robot’s advantages of flexibility, reprogrammability, tirelessness and hardiness have come to be appreciated by industrialists, and even the layman realizes that today’s industrial robot ,unlike the tin marvel of science fiction, has a real and useful role to fulfill.

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Also this essay has been discussed the importance of robots in our society. This has been broken down into particular fields where robots have been applied to. In industries robots have been used to speed up the production processes. The use of robots in the military has been discussed in which robots have been found made that have the capacity to make decision and launch missiles.

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The essay examines the various danger posed in particular fields by the continued use of robots. The danger posed by the robots include the right of the robots to defend itself by applying force which may cause suffering to humans.

The use of robots also maybe led to many people being rendered jobless directly, but in the long term it benefit to improving manufacturing industry go to the economy as a whole.

General introduction to robots

  1. what is a Robot?

The robot is a special kind of automated machine that can do not only this particular job of trimming, but it can be programmed and retooled to do many different jobs (Hall and Hall , 1985). This programmability and versatility is why all robots are automated machines, but all automated machines are not robots.

At present ,the international concept of robots has gradually come closer to agreement. As stated by Ernest and Bettie (1985) , there is only one definition of an industrial robot that is internationally accepted and it was developed by a group of industrial scientists form the Robotics Industries Association (formerly the Robotics Institute of America) in 1979. They defined the industrial robot as:“a reprogrammable, multifunctional manipulator designed to move materials, part, tools, or specialized devices through various programmed motions for the performance of a variety of tasks” (Ernest and Bettie, 1985, P.2).

  1. classification of Robots systems

The general classification of robots systems, can be list as:

“1. Manipulation robotics systems:

  1. Mobile robot system:
  2. Information and control robotic system:” ( Vukobratavic, 1989, p.1).

History of the development of robot

In 1920, Karel Capek (1890-1938) wrote R.U.R.,a play in which automata were mass-produced by an Englishman named Rossum. R.U.R. stood for “Rossum’s Universal Robots.” Rossum came form a Czech word rozum , meaning “reason,”and robot is a Czech word for “worker,” with the impalication of involuntary servitude , so that it might be translated as “serf”or “slave.”

In 1941, Isaac Asimov used the word robot to describe the automatic device. In 1942, Isaac Asimov also created the three laws for robots which involved the facts that robots should not be designed to harm humans and they should be primarily made to obey orders given by humans.

In 1948,Norbert Weiner coined the word and expounded on the theory in his book Cybernetics , linking the fields of neurophysiology, information theory , computers, and the control of machine tools.

In 1949, EDSAC, the first stored program computer, developed at Cambridge university.

1n 1952, IBM’s first commercial computer, the IBM 701, is marked.

In 1954, the first patent for an industrial robot was developed by George C. Devol, Jr. He called its control and computer memory system “universal automation” or “unimation” for short.

In 1956,in the  meeting of Dartmouth, Marvin Minsky put forward his views on intelligent machines: intelligent machines " an abstract model can create the surrounding environment, if have problem it can be find a solution from the abstract model" .

In 1968, Kawasaki Heavy industries negotiates license form Unimation.

In 1969, Experimental walking truck is developed by General Electric for the U.S. Army.

In 1978,the united states company of Unimation introduced the industrial robot PUMA, which marks the industrial robot technology has fully developed. PUMA is still the first line in the factory.

In 1984, Engelberger created the robot named Heipmate which can be deliver meals and send mail for patients in the hospital. Meanwhile, he predicted “I want to make robots that can be make coffee ,clean up and help me to washing car.”

In 1998, LEGO releases their first Robotics Invention SystemTM 1.0. LEGO names the product line MINDSTORMS after Seymour Papert's seminal work of 1980.
In 1999,Sony releases the first Aibo electronic dogs that sell out within 20 minutes of going on sale.

In 2002, Honda's ASIMO robot rings the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange.

The advantage of robots

We explain why robots are being used more and more in industrial and commercial applications.

Manufacturers are finding that the actual cost of making a product can be reduced by the use of robots . there are several reasons for this sections.

  1. reduced production cost

the cost of a robot amortized over several years is often less than 15 dollars per hour compared to average labor costs of about 50 per hour when fringe benefits are included. Fringe benefits in many industries are 30% to 50% of the base salary. These fringe benefits cover such items as social security, workmen’s compensation, vacations, holidays, sick leave, medical and dental benefits, and retirement pay.  Robots get none of those benefits (Critchlow, 1985 ).

Robots work 98% of the time at their assigned task. Humans take coffee breaks, lunch breaks, and other time off for personal reasons. A standard industrial allowance for production workers is the personal and fatigue allowance, which depends on the type of work. It is usually about 15 % to 20% (Critchlow, 1985 ).

Robots produce a higher percentage of good parts or assemblies than human workers do because they repeat the same procedure every time and do not make parts incorrectly due to fatigue or lack of attention..

  1. Increased productivity

Robots can work much faster at some tasks than human workers can. In another application, two paint spray robots on an automobile assembly line can paint a complete car body in 90 seconds, inside and out, with two coats of paint. In the GM plant in Michigan, two GMF(General Motors-fanuc) robots achieve this rate and work 20 hours per day (Critchlow, 1985 ). Human painters cannot compete with this rate or the quality of work performed. Even the best painters may take 15 to 30 minutes to do this jod.

Increased productivity means that more work is completed on schedule and equipment is improved, resulting in savings due to lower capital investment.

  1. Improved product quality

Accuracy of positioning is much greater in robots than in humans. Current robots with a 3-foot reach can achieve accuracies of 0.008 inch and repeatability of 0.004 inch. In a welding test, a robot produced a weld that did not require grinding afterward and produced parts to better tolerance than any human welder could produce(Critchlow, 1985 ).

Speed of operation is another advantage in producing high-quality parts. Moreover, in welding very thin pieces, it is desirable to move quickly over the seam to be welded and to complete the weld before the pieces distort due to the heat of welding. The controlled accuracy and speed of the robot make possible some welds that were difficult to perform before.

According to Critchlow (1985),  another example of improved quality is in die casting, where the casting cycle must be strictly adhered to in order to produce good parts. Humans cannot adhere to a strict timing cycle in more good parts and improved die life when robots are used.

  1. Operation in Hazardous and Hostile Environments

   Loading and unloading of hot forging presses was one of the  early application of robots. White-hot ingots must be held in place while a powered forging hammer hits them with massive, multiton strokes. Formerly two men, with long tongs, held the ingots in place during the forging operation. Now , one robot holding the ingot with a steel end effector, positions the part accuratrly for forging. Higher operation rates result, workers are not exposed to flying sparks of hot metal, and product quality is improved.

Some painting is done with toxic paints that are extremely hazardous to the painter’s health. Men were required work completely covered with hoods and sealed garments, with an air supply piped into the hoods. Work under these conditions was hot and tiring. Robots were taught to do this work using the teach boxes and men were freed form working under these conditions. In addition, the production rate and the quality of work were improved.

  1. Improved Management control

Computer-controlled robots can carry out preprogrammed procedures with great accuracy. In addition, they can record accurately what is being done. This information is then available and can be used to improve scheduling, planning, and monitoring operations in industrial plants.

  1. Longer Useful life

Obsolescence can be reduced and system life extended when robots are used, since it is possible to change end effectors on a robot and reprogram it for a different task. Fixed automation must often be scrapped because it is cheaper to redesign than to modify the old equipment.

This is an impressive list of attractions. But what do the user think? As states by Critchlow (1985): “ Several surveys of industrial users show industry’s reasons for introducing robots. For Japanese industry in 1979 the priority list was as follows (Hasegawa, 1979):

Labour saving                         44.5%

Improvement of working conditions       24.9%

Increased flexibility                    13.5%

Ease of production control               8.0%

Others                               9.0%

A similar survey of German industry came up with the following list of priorities (Vicentine, 1983):

Productivity increase

Labour cost reduction

Return on investment

Improved quality

More humane work conditions. ”

Social impact of robots

  1. Effects of robots on employment

In March 2009 , the world’s first teacher robots used in Japan. Not only she can speak several kinds of language , but also can check the students’ name, give the students homework and performance other teaching task. June, in Japan cooking robots which be familiar with the completion of pancake work stand out of the stage. July, advanced beauty robot completed his first wedding show.

It is easy to imagine that with more and more robots posses the strong ability, future robots will gradually replace the artificial labour. Take the “Fire Robot ” which is the result of the British Government research recently as an example. Although the robot can avoid the firefighters’ death in the fire , the firefighters will lose their jobs when London developed the using of “Fire Robot”.

So that it is often argued that robots will take over our job. This ideal seems reasonable, according to McCLOY and HARRIS(1986), experience indicated that between two or five jobs are lost directly as a result of a robot installation(Williams, 1984 ; Kalmbach et al., 1982).

But in the long term, installing robots will create more jobs than they eliminate ; in the area of manufacture, selling, maintenance and operation (McCLOY and HARRIS, 1986, p.282).  Also, it can be argued that automation in manufacturing creates wealth by reducing unit costs which in turn brings prices down, therefore creating more demand which is met by increased production rates, bringing unit costs even lower, and so round the economic circle. It is well kown that boost economic will create more jobs. So that robot will not take away the job, it only makes the work easier. At the same time, with the develop of new robot markets ,will create more jobs.

2.effect of robots on safety aspects

Having examined some of the employment aspects of robots, we now turn to a consideration of the safety aspects.

According to McCLOY AND HARRIS (1986), comparison to other machine tools, robots have a good safety record; many installations make a major contribution to safety by taking over dangerous jobs form human operators. Indeed, Japan boasts of a grant scheme which encourages small-to medium-scaled companies to introduced robots for this purpose (Hasegawa and Sugimoto, 1982).

Detailed analysis of types and sources of accidents may be found in the literature (Sugimoto and Kawaguchi, 1983), and apart form those arising form the application itself, the human faces two types of hazard form a robot: impact and trapping (McCLOY and Harris, 1986).


In conclusion, robot technology have a great impact on the progress of human,  development of economic and enrich of culture. In the future, with the advanced of technology this kind of influence will became more and more clearly. There are some effects may be difficult to predict at present. However, it can make sure that robot technology will have great impact on our society.


Ernest L. Hall and Bettie C. Hall (1985). Robotics, A User-Friendly Introduction. Japan: CBS CLLOEGE PUBLISHING..

Milroy Vukobratovic (1986). Introduction to Robotics. Yugoslavia: Institute Mihajlo Pupin.

  1. McCLoy and D. M. J . Harris,(1986). Robotics: An Introduction . Great Britain: Open University Press.

ISAAC ASIMOV and KAREN A. FRENKEL. (1985). Robots, Machines in Man’s Image. New York: Harmony Books.

Arthur J. Critchlow (1985). Introduction to Robotics. New York: Macmillan Pulishing Company.



Updated: Nov 20, 2023
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The Evolution of Robots: From R.U.R. to Modern. (2017, Mar 11). Retrieved from

The Evolution of Robots: From R.U.R. to Modern essay
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