Why robotics?

Robotics is changing the way we do science and the way we see ourselves.

Since ancient times, when it still did not have energy sources capable of moving machines and had limited technical capabilities, man imagined the most complex machine in existence: an imitation of the human being himself. We find this fantastic image in Greek mythology where ancient texts narrate that animated statues, or mechanical automatons, guarded the labyrinth built by Daedalus, the first engineer in history.

Robotics pursues one of the oldest dreams of man, who has always built tools to increase his power and decrease fatigue. This activity has become one of the keys to economic progress, thanks to the machines of the industrial revolution of the nineteenth century and the automatic machines of the twentieth century. Today, advances in information technology, communications and new materials make it possible to equip automatic machines with enough intelligence to make them autonomous.

In the twenty-first century, humanity will find itself living with the first alien intelligence in its history, robots, with all the ethical and social problems that will follow.

There are problems that humanity will only be able to face through the use of robots. In particular, robots for the study and protection of the environment and robots capable of intervening in hostile environments to carry out the remediation of sites contaminated by toxic waste (chemical, radioactive or bacteriological) or the recovery of materials hazardous to the environment and human health in inaccessible places such as the sea bed.

Robotic systems for mine clearance and weapon neutralization also fall into this category. In addition, space exploration and colonization will be conducted by teams of men and robots.

Robotics will make it possible to deal with problems that are important for the health and well-being of mankind, through intelligent prostheses and thanks to new diagnostic, surgical and therapy tools that robotics will be able to provide medicine with.

Robotics is one of the main businesses of the future, as demonstrated by the massive financial commitment in Research and Development activities of the most industrialized countries, Japan in the lead. After the diffusion of robots in industries, today the first consumer products are beginning to be seen, the latter mainly in the entertainment sector, but destined to open the market to the invasion of service robots. The potential market is immense and it is foreseeable that in the future the Asian market will hold a predominant slice, as it does today for consumer electronics.

Why an association dedicated to robotics?

Historically, one of the main channels for the transmission of scientific knowledge to society have been associations, such as those dedicated to the natural sciences, astronomy, archaeology or the problems of medicine. These make the activities and results of research popular with the general public, who are thus informed, at a popular level but not for this reason with less precision and attention, of the state of the art research.

In order to translate scientific discoveries and technological innovations into a popular but correct language, it takes people outside the circle of specialists who use technology and love science.

In an association it is possible to learn and “have fun”, i.e. it is a free space where one can give vent to imagination and creativity with unconventional initiatives. In this way it is possible to learn by playing but also to make “inventions”. Moreover, the association is a space where adults can resume “studying” without feeling uncomfortable.

Science and technology evolve rapidly and the traditional school is not organized to keep pace with an evolving culture.

We must not always leave everything to the institutions, but it is the civil duty of everyone, researchers, students, teachers and disseminators, to work together to improve the circulation of information between different sectors of society.

An association is an agile, flexible instrument and as such can often do more than heavy, bureaucratically diseased, centralised bodies.

A new science

Robotics is a science that studies the behavior of intelligent beings, tries to develop methodologies that allow a machine (robot), equipped with appropriate devices to perceive the surrounding environment and interact with it as sensors and actuators, to perform specific tasks.

Robotics is an emerging science, which is emerging from the fusion of many traditional disciplines, belonging both to the natural and human sciences. It is a “Gestalt” where the result is greater than the sum of the parts that compose it and where the single disciplines that merge in robotics are modified taking new ideas, new perspectives. It is a very powerful tool to study and better understand not only the universe around us – space, oceans, our body – but also our mind itself. This is why robotics can lead to a convergence of the “two cultures”, towards what many dreamers called a “new humanism of machines”.

This “nascent state” is at the origin of the confusion that often reigns in the world of robotics, where specialists from distant sectors confront each other, creating a “Tower of Babel” where sometimes even understanding each other is difficult. On the other hand, for this very reason robotics is one of the most culturally stimulating sectors, since the objective of replicating an autonomous organism endowed with intelligence is helping to overcome the separation between the two cultures, humanistic and scientific, since in robotics the two aspects of “body” and “mind” coexist. Moreover, as a new science strongly linked to technological development, robotics is also a frontier land where anyone, even with limited investments, can create innovative products and win patents or highly remunerative market spaces.