Let's Make Robots! | RobotShop

What is a ROBOT?

I have seen this question asked and have not yet found a real answer or one that actually describe or defines what a robot is.

Here I am asking the infamous question "What is a Robot"

Can't wait to see what your thoughts are.

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There's only a certain level of consistency for the definition of "robot", so it's not as "cut and dry" as I originally suspected. ex:


"A robot is a machine—especially one programmable by a computer— capable of carrying out a complex series of actions automatically."

Note this was written and revised by many, many humans who seem to have reached a concensus.


"A machine that resembles a human and does mechanical, routine tasks on command {or} any machine or mechanical device that operates automatically with humanlike skill."


"A device that automatically performs complicated, often repetitive tasks (as in an industrial assembly line) {or} a machine that resembles a living creature in being capable of moving independently (as by walking or rolling on wheels) and performing complex actions (such as grasping and moving objects)"

You might be curious if RobotShop has an official definition of "robot" which dictates the type of products we offer and create, and at this time, we do not. There are certain products which are "unquestionably" robotic, but the likely goal of the question would be to see just how big the "grey area" is.

I (personally) prefer the incredibly broad definition that "a robot is a machine that senses and acts on its world". By this definition however, it can be argued that a toaster is a robot because it "sensed" that a button was pressed and reacts by activating a heating element. I asked my toaster and it beeped enthusiastically in agreement. The microwave got jealous.

As technology evolves, the definitions which relate more to "machonery" might disappear and some level of (programmed) intelligence (for a response), actuation (even mobility?) and different reactions to different environmental input / conditions might be required. 

Very interesting how we have so many different definitions for the word robot. The only key word that they all use is "Machine". I disagree with the fact that it has to resemble a human as we have all seen machines that we would call robots that look nothing like a human. The other item they all seem to agree on is that it carry's out complex tasks or actions. Then there is taht it does these actions automatically.

Does that mean the definition would be a Machine that resembles a living creature that carry's out complex tasks automatically?

Great post Cbenson.



Introducing HardWIRED, a new video series about the robots that are poised to take over the world. In the first episode WIRED explores what qualifies as a robot in the first place.


Thank you JP for posting that a really good video.

You hear that Bill Gates want to tax robots. Well I guess we will need to know what a robot is before you can tax it.


This made me think.

Since apparently we can't find a common ground on the definition based on form. Why don't we think in terms of function?

In the sense that a robot would be non-living autonomous unit accomplishing a task it has been programmed for (or one that it has learnt) and that was previously accomplished by a human.

So robots would be everything from robots in car factories, robot vacuums, chatbots, autonomous drones surveying,...

What people usually think about when you say the word "machine":


When you say "robot":

In my opinion there is not really a difference between a robot and a machine. I think it's an image thing really. However these days simple machines like a washing machine contains a lot of sensors and electronics. It senses if your wash isn't clean enough and it will adjust its program etc. Back in the days everything was way less complicated and much more basic. A robot as in the movies was something really hi-tech.