Key Terms in Robotics: A Comprehensive Glossary

In the constantly evolving world of technology, understanding the terminology is a crucial first step towards gaining a deeper knowledge. In this article, we’ll explore some of the key terms in the field of robotics, demystifying the jargon and providing a clear guide for newcomers and veterans alike. Whether you’re an enthusiastic hobbyist or a seasoned professional, this glossary can serve as a valuable reference tool in your robotics journey.


The Glossary

  • Robot: An automated machine capable of performing tasks without human intervention.
  • Actuator: A device that converts energy into motion in a robot.
  • Sensor: An instrument that detects changes in physical phenomena like temperature or light and sends information about these changes to the robot’s controller.
  • AI (Artificial Intelligence): The branch of computer science that allows a robot to understand and respond to its environment.
  • Autonomous Robot: A robot that can operate without human control or supervision.
  • Biomimicry: The process of designing robots inspired by biological systems.
  • Controller: A device or software that directs the robot’s actions based on inputs from the sensors.
  • Degrees of Freedom (DOF): The number of independent movements a robot can make.
  • End Effector: The device at the end of a robotic arm designed to interact with the environment.
  • Gripper: A type of end effector used for grasping objects.
  • Haptic Feedback: The sensation of touch feedback provided by a robot to its operator.
  • Inverse Kinematics: The mathematical process of determining the movements of a robot’s joints to achieve a specific position of the end effector.
  • Jacobian: A matrix representing the first derivatives of a function. In robotics, it is used in the calculation of both forward and inverse kinematics.
  • Kinematics: The science of motion, specifically, the way robots move.
  • Lidar (Light Detection and Ranging): A remote sensing method that uses light in the form of a pulsed laser to measure distances.
  • Machine Learning: A subset of AI that provides systems the ability to automatically learn and improve from experience without being explicitly programmed.
  • Manipulator: The arm of a robot.
  • Microcontroller: A small, low-cost computer on a single integrated circuit which is the ‘brain’ of some robots.
  • Motion Planning: The process of breaking down a movement task into ‘primitives’ such as individual joint movements.
  • Odometry: The use of sensor data to estimate change in position over time.
  • Path Planning: The computational problem of defining a trajectory for the motion of a robot.
  • Payload: The maximum weight a robot can lift or carry.
  • PID (Proportional, Integral, Derivative) Controller: A control loop feedback mechanism widely used in control systems, including robots.
  • ROS (Robot Operating System): A flexible framework for writing robot software, offering a collection of tools, libraries, and conventions.
  • Servo Motor: A rotary or linear actuator that allows for precise control of angular or linear position, velocity, and acceleration.
  • SLAM (Simultaneous Localization and Mapping): A computational problem of constructing or updating a map of an unknown environment while keeping track of an agent’s location.
  • Stewart Platform: A type of parallel manipulator with six prismatic actuators, commonly used in flight simulators.
  • Swarm Robots: A group of robots working together to complete a task.
  • Teleoperation: The operation of a robot from a distance.
  • Trajectory Planning: The aspect of motion planning that deals with the movement of robots from one point to another.
  • Uncanny Valley: A concept that refers to the discomfort people feel when robotic and other artificial human replicas look and act almost like the real thing, but not perfectly.
  • Underactuated Robot: A robot with fewer control inputs than degrees of freedom.
  • Vision System: A system consisting of one or more cameras that allow a robot to gather information about its environment.
  • Workspace: The set of all points that can be reached by the end effector of a robot.
  • X, Y, Z Coordinates: The three coordinates in a 3D space to which the end effector of a robot can move.
  • Yaw, Pitch, Roll: The three angles that define the orientation of a robot in 3D space.
  • Zero Moment Point: A concept related to the dynamics and stability of articulated systems, such as robots.
  • Dynamics: The study of forces and torques and their effect on motion.
  • Force Control: A way of controlling the forces that a robot exerts on its environment.
  • Gait: The pattern of movement of the limbs of animals, including humans, during locomotion.
  • Holonomic: A term that describes the controllability of a mechanical system.
  • Interpolation: The process of determining intermediate values between two points to give a smooth transition.
  • Jogging: A method of manually moving a robot to a desired position or along a desired path.
  • Kinesthetic Teaching: A method of training a robot by physically guiding its motions.
  • Leadthrough: A programming method where an operator physically moves a robot to teach it a path.
  • Mechatronics: The combination of mechanical, electronic and software engineering in the design of products or processes.
  • Revolute Joint: A type of joint in a robot that allows for rotation around a single axis.
  • SCARA (Selective Compliance Assembly Robot Arm): A type of robot that is used mainly in assembly applications due to its accuracy, speed, and durability.
  • Tactile Sensor: A device that measures information arising from physical interaction with its environment.
  • Torque: The rotational force applied to a robot joint.


Final Thoughts


The world of robotics is filled with unique terms and jargon that can sometimes seem overwhelming. However, with resources like this comprehensive glossary, navigating through these terms can become a lot more manageable. We hope this guide has shed some light on the key terms in robotics and has made your journey into this exciting field a bit easier. We invite you to explore our glossary on key terms in artificial intelligence for more insights!


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