Excellent post Elizabeth. Also Beth, I agree completely with your comments relative to this "device" being deployed around the globe to aid the efforts of forecasters. I can see how these "robots" could provide additional early warning as well as improve understanding of the physics associated with storms developing and those in progress. I'm going to get on my soap box here and say I have no idea as to what our Congress does with their time and I would suspect the only grant money available will money that helps them get re-elected. (NOTE: Please see abdication of all efforts to fund NASA's manned space flight program.) At any rate, I think this is a good use of VC money and tax payer's money.
Almost all of the robots that I have worked with have been industrial robots, the closest times that they get to being autonomous are when they decide how to slow down for a direction change, and, for a select few, when they get to push untilo a specified force level is obtained. A fully autonomous industrial robot would be both scary and dangerous, since they are not very much aware of their surroundings.
And I thought that the word "robot" came from Remote Operation By OThers. Not sure where I read that, or if the source was reliable.
Thanks, William, for the industrial robot example. I didn't think of them in terms of appearance. One of the most interesting things to me about the definition cited in Wikipedia--as well as the definitions of robotics engineers--isn't what a robot looks like, but the fact that it doesn't have to be autonomous. Yet because of growing up with science fiction, I guess, many of us tend to assume that autonomy is part of the definition. A robot does have to perform tasks automatically, but that can be as part of a larger control system, such as found in industrial contexts, where controls are external to the robot. Most of the robots I write about are either remote-controlled (RC) or autonomous, and some can operate in both modes.
Ann is certainly correct. Industrial robots don't look at all human, at least most of them don't. With robotics, the name follows the functionality rather than the appearance. An automaton might be a better term for something designed to have somewhat of a human appearance, actualy, and that is closer to the roots of the word.
General dictionaries are good for defining broad, commonly used vocabulary terms, but not at all useful for fast-moving, highly specialized fields like science and technology. Wikipedia is usually a lot more reliable. Here's what it says: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robot
TJ, the term "robot" doesn't necessarily imply that it looks like a human, although early robots did. DN did a survey on this subject, asking our Systems & Product Design Engineering and Automation & Control Engineering groups on LinkedIn "Should Robots Look Like People or Machines?" Here are the results: http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1381&doc_id=237885
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