Robotics – A Very Short Introduction by Alan Winfield, 2012

…when the Symbrion organism self-assembles, individual robot cells will need to adopt a specialist function according to their position; when it self-disassembles, individual robot cells will in a sense revert to undifferentiated ‘stem cell’-like robots.  pp. 106

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A professional roboticist writes about the basics of robotics—the definition of a robot, the different types of robots, major problems in robotics, the state of the art (as of 2012), and what the future might hold.

It’s wonderful that the book was authored by someone working in the field.  Winfield uses simple explanations and avoids specialized vocabulary, and is careful to define key concepts in straightforward ways.  His enthusiasm for the field is obvious, and keeps his writing fresh and excited.

Ideas per Page:1 4/10 (medium)

Related Books: What Technology Wants by Kevin Kelly; You Are Not A Gadget by Jaron Lanier;

Recommend to Others: If you have interest in the field

Reread Personally: No


…a robot that can react on its own in response to its sensors is highly autonomous.  13

43 Solarbot provides us with a remarkable illustration that simple, apparently purposeful behaviours require no computational machinery at all.  Solarbot is an example of wheat roboticists refer to as a Braitenberg machine.

47 Thus a mobile robot, just like an insect, should be able to move around in the world, avoiding collisions with static objects, simply by sensing those objects and reacting only when they get close enough to pose a threat.

48 A high-level behavior may well build and maintain a map; a low-level behavior doesn’t need that map: instead, it will react directly to the sensory inputs.

52 However, fueled by just eight dead flies, it [EcoBot II] operated continuously for nearly two weeks.

53 EcoBot III thus represents the only known example, to date, of a robot with a complete artificial digestive system.

55 Rats, for instance, see in the dark in 3D with texture, using their whiskers, and neuroscientists have estimated that the rat uses a greater proportion of its cortex for processing data form its whiskers than from its vision system.  There seems to be little doubt that the predominant sense for the rat is active touch using its whiskers.

103 Remarkably, this experiment appears to confirm Hamilton’s rule: that altruistic behavior will evolve when the relatedness of individuals multiplied by the fitness benefit to the receiver of the altruistic behavior is greater than the fitness cost of performing the behavior.

1 A measure of the number of new or distinct ideas introduced per page. 10/10 would be conceptually dense, like a textbook. 1/10 would be almost completely fluff.





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