For many decades, ideas of humanoid robots interacting with people, particularly in day-to-day settings, have captivated the imagination of everyone from artists to engineers. Most people are unaware of the slow but steady growth in this field, and remain ignorant of the important role that robots already play in our lives, most notably in industry and exploration. The slow growth and development of human-like robots pays tribute to the miraculously complex functions of animal organisms, a good example being the brain's ability to coordinate and process ambulation and sensory feedback. It turns out to be quite difficult to build mechanical systems, no matter how complex, that mimic the function and behavior of advanced biological organisms. The effort to build humanoid robots forces researchers to draw from many areas of math, computer science, engineering, materials science, and physics, with particular emphasis on the serious and sophisticated application of concepts from linear algebra, rigid-body mechanics, feedback control, circuit design, differential geometry, artificial intelligence, and search algorithms. If building robots is the ultimate fun, it is also the ultimate challenge.
A standard course in robotics will address the following topics:
- Robot Mechanical Structure
- Differential Kinematics and Statics
- Trajectory Planning
- Actuators and Sensors
- Control Architecture
- Motion Control
- Force Control
- Visual Servoing
- Mobile Robots
- Motion Planning
Students will not have trouble finding books on robotics at Google Books and Amazon. A beginner's basic robotics tutorial can be found at the Society of Robots. For a serious learning experience in robotics, with several entire courses available for free, students must take advantage of the MIT Open Courseware materials. There are several important journals that students should be following in the area of robotics, particularly the Journal of Robotics, The International Journal of Robotics Research, International Journal of Robotics and Automation, IEEE's Journal of Robotics and Automation, Elsevier's Robotics and Autonomous Systems, Springer's International Journal of Social Robotics, and Wiley's Journal of Field Robotics.
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