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The Robotics Primer: Chapter 3

Manipulation and mobility

Manipulation is more difficult than mobility. Human infants generally learn how to move around by crawling before they learn how to manipulate objects such as using a pencil or crayon to draw. In robots, basic mobility can be achieved with only a few motors and wheels. The controller of a robot only needs to be able to control the speed and direction of the wheels to move around. For manipulation, a robot would need to be able to sense the object it intends to manipulate, and it would need some sort of effector such as arms and hands with which to manipulate the object. These effectors and sensors would probably require the controller to process much more data than if it only needed to control the wheels to move around. 

My sensor space

I, like most humans and animals, have an extremely large, maybe even infinitely large sensor space. My eyes can sense a very large number of different colours since there are an infinite number of different wavelengths of light that exist on the visible spectrum. Similarly, my ears can detect a certain range of frequencies of sound, and since audio frequency is a spectrum, there exists an infinite number of precise frequencies that I can hear. I can also hear sounds at an infinite number of specific volumes, and I can smell odours at an infinite number of precise strengths. My eyes can sense very bright and very dim light, and between very bright and very dim there is an infinite number of specific levels of brightness that my eyes can see.

Things that are observable, partially observable, or hidden

There are many things about my state that are observable, such as the position of my arms. I am easily able to see and feel where exactly my arms are. In fact, even if I cannot see my arms I can still sense where they are. My digestive system may be partially observable. I cannot normally sense exactly what my intestines and stomach are doing or where exactly they are located, but I know when they are malfunctioning by sensing pain in my stomach. The state of any single cell in my body is completely hidden from my senses, since individual cells are generally too small for my senses to detect.


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