What Can Robots Do That Humans Can't

By Jason Chavis

Robots are capable of a variety of tasks humans cannot perform either due to danger or a certain level of mundane repetition. Factories and the home have implemented robotics for further efficiency and speed. The military and science have utilized robots for deadly situations or reconnaissance in severe conditions, while the medical community uses robots to perform delicate operations difficult for a human hand. Robots have joined the workplace and society as a whole in a capacity of vast importance to humans.


Robots are able to perform a variety of tasks that humans otherwise could not perform. Since the first robot, Unimate, was installed into a New Jersey General Motors factory in 1961, increased automation on the assembly line floor has boosted production levels to those that would be impossible with humans doing all the tasks. Today, factories of all kinds use robots to perform tasks such as welding, assembly, sealing and operating dangerous tools. The other advantage to robots is the fact that, as mechanical apparatuses, they never tire; so they can perform their jobs nonstop, turning manufacturing and industry into 24-hour facilities.


Robots also have taken the front line in meeting military and reconnaissance needs. The U.S. military has adopted unmanned aerial reconnaissance vehicles that can enter zones of operation that traditional aircraft cannot. Due to their size and relatively low flying levels, they are ideal for conducting surveillance and limited-strike missions. The fact that the pilot is stationed behind a computer, sometimes half the world away, limits the loss of human life.Other reconnaissance vehicles have been used for situations in which no human could survive. The Pioneer robot was able to explore the site of the Chernobyl disaster to assess structural stability and radiation levels that otherwise would have killed a person, while the Dante II has been used to enter active volcanoes to research sulfur and gas levels.


Cost savings and exploratory considerations have been a driving force for NASA to replace manned missions with unmanned probes, both automated and remote controlled. By implementing robotic missions, the space program has been able to add many more missions to its roster and make discoveries it otherwise would not have. The Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity have been able to continue their missions on Mars for a much longer period of time than would have been possible for a manned mission. The Deep Impact probe that crashed into a comet would never have even been possible for a manned flight to complete, as the robot was on a one-way mission.


The medical industry has developed robotic technology that gives doctors and surgeons newfound abilities. Using surgical assistant robots such as the Da Vinci, doctors are now able to perform completely sterile surgeries, often from a location far from the operating room. The delicate work performed by a robot prevents the factor of human error or even the chance for a surgeon to slip while cutting into a patient. They've also been able to automate certain time-consuming tasks in laboratory work. The medical industry is one of the fastest growing fields for robotics. Work is in place to use robots for care giving and further delicate work, even experimenting with nanotechnology that could some day perform invasive procedures without surgery.


It can be argued that many robotics have been implemented merely for convenience. The Roomba, a vacuum robot that cleans the floor of a home, is one example. Yet household appliances that have been turned into robotic hybrids of previous technology, including toasters, microwaves and stoves, all support microprocessors that function as safety and efficiency devices.