What makes a robot a robot?


“Welcome my son, welcome to the machine
 Where have you been?
 Welcome my son, welcome to the machine
 What did you dream?”
— “Welcome to the Machine,” Wish You Were Here, Pink Floyd, 1975

When you push a vacuum cleaner around your house, you don’t consider yourself to be working with a robot; however, when a Roomba travels around the house and picks up dirt on its own, it’s considered a vacuuming robot. So what makes a robot a robot?

We’ve had lots of discussions about this at Autodesk, and we’ve decided that here is what’s required:

  1. Power

    Robots need a power source to operate.

  2. Movement

    Robots rely on actuators or motors and hydraulics to convert energy into movement and force.

  3. Senses

    Robots use sensors to see and feel what’s happening in their environment.

  4. Hands

    Robots leverage effectors — tools that handle materials and manipulate things.

  5. Head

    Robots have a control system — a brain that directs their operation.

If you take any…

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