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The three basic types of robotlike machines that are commercially available are described. It is pointed out that the true home robots available today consist essentially of personal computers on wheels, linked electromechanically to drive motors and usually some rudimentary sensor. They are about 0.6 to 1.3 meters (2 to 4 ft) tall and weigh 18 to 68 kilograms (40 to 150 lb). Like all personal computers, the robots' intelligence is provided by a standard microprocessor chip, such as a Motorola 68000, a Zilog Z80, and an Intel 8088. Like the early personal computers, present-day personal robots are limited in capacity, require extensive knowledge on the programmer's part to make them do anything much more sophisticated than play songs, and are expensive (prices range to $8000). Because the programming challenges in the home are more formidable than those in many industrial settings, robots that are practical for the ordinary home may not be developed until the end of the 1990s.
Date of Publication: May 1985