If you like science fiction movies, you probably love robots, too. Who wouldn’t love a machine that could move around, act almost like a human and do all sorts of incredible things?

But can robots think for themselves? Or can they only do what we humans program them to do? Can robots WONDER about things? Or do they simply wait for the next command to be sent to their computer “brains”?

A robot is a machine that is controlled by electronic programming, usually in the form of a computer. Most robots are electronic and many can be controlled remotely. Robots can be programmed to do many different types of tasks. Some can be done automatically, while others may be done with guidance from a human controller.

Since the days of ancient Egypt, humans have searched for ways to make certain tasks easier by inventing machines to do them. True robots, however, are a much more recent invention. The first electronic robots were built by William Grey Walter in England in 1948. American George Devol, Jr. invented the first digital and programmable robot a few years later in 1954.

Today, robots are used for all sorts of tasks in a wide variety of industries. Some robots vacuum floors and mow lawns, while others help to build cars in large factories. Robots are also used in modern warfare.

Robots also can do tasks that are too dangerous for humans to perform. For example, robots can be sent into outer space or the depths of the sea to explore areas that humans could never reach on their own.

Many schoolchildren across the United States are getting experience building and programming robots. Schools can now participate in LEGO® Robotics competitions that teach young children how to build and program basic robots to perform a number of simple tasks.

But can today’s robots actually think for themselves? You may have heard the term “artificial intelligence” at some point in the past. Does this mean that scientists have created robots that can think just like humans?

The term “artificial intelligence” refers to sophisticated robots that can perform complex tasks that require choices to be made based upon a number of factors. Although these robots seem to think like humans, they are still robots who just have advanced programming that allows them to mimic human thought and behavior.

Robots still cannot think on their own like humans. However, many scientists believe such breakthroughs may be possible in the next 20-30 years. What do you think? Do you want robots to be able to think just like humans?

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    • Thanks for being the very first Wonder Friend to visit today’s Wonder and leave us a comment, Aparajita! We think robots are amazing, too. We also think it’s SUPER COOL that you want to make one! :-)

  1. My mom bought an app for her iPad. It’s called Robot Lab. You build a robot and then you are scored on the number of stars you find. Reading today’s WONDER has made me want to go play.

    I’m not sure what tomorrow’s WONDER is, but I do know that my town’s rocky soil was created by glaciers.

  2. I was very close to guess today’s wonder. :) I loved today’s wonder! :D I think tomorrow’s wonder of the day is that what can glaciers damage.


    • Happy Saturday, TJ! We’re glad you loved exploring today’s Wonder and that you guess tomorrow’s Wonder might be about glaciers! We can’t wait to see what we will all be WONDERing about with Wonder #630! :-)

  3. Hi, Wonderopolis! Guess who’s back? Yep, it’s Samuel! :D I think tomorrow’s wonder will be if glaciers can damage things.

    Too bad this isn’t the 1st comment or the comment before TJ. Hopefully my guess for tomorrow’s wonder will be right. ;)

    • Welcome back to Wonderopolis, Samuel! We’re so happy to receive a super comment from you today! It looks like both you and TJ have the same guess for tomorrow’s Wonder…we can’t wait to see if you guys are correct! Glaciers would be SUPER WONDERful to WONDER about! :-)

  4. Dear Wonderopolis,
    Cool wonder! Robots are just machines, I don’t think they actually think. I agree with Samuel that tomorrow’s wonder is about glaciers or ice.

    Paige =D

    • It’s AWESOME to hear from you today, Paige! Thank you for sharing your thoughts about robots and thanks for letting us know that you agree with Samuel’s guess about tomorrow’s Wonder! YOU ROCK! :-)

  5. At my school, I had a science book and I talk a lot about science, even robots. I even sometimes wish I was a robot because think of all the amazing things I can do.

    • We think it’s cool to WONDER what it would be like to be a robot, Carlos, but we bet you can do even MORE WONDERful things as yourself than if you were a robot! You have an AWESOMELY creative Wonder brain, and we really like the way you see the world around you! We are SUPER glad to count you as a Wonder Friend! :-)

  6. It’s me. I like the video. I think robots are cool some don’t do things. Robots are everywhere. I wonder when robots were made?

    • Thanks so much for this GREAT comment, Connor! We appreciate you stopping by Wonderopolis to share your thoughts about robots and to tell us that you liked the video! :-)

    • We’re SUPER glad you guys liked this Wonder about robots, WONDERCLASS7! Thank you for hanging out in Wonderopolis with us and learning new things…it’s FUN to WONDER together! :-)

  7. Hello, it’s Julia, you know me, don’t you? I’m the one who’s sister went away for overnight camp!! I thought this video was SOO super adorable, but I didn’t get it! :)

    • We sure DO remember you, Julia! Thanks for sharing another AMAZING comment with us today! We think the robot in the video first wanted to find out where he came from. When he was in the woods, stepping on leaves and being in nature, he saw the train that had the same logo that he had. He got excited and followed the train and found where he was probably “made,” but when he saw the starkness of the buildings and the fast-paced way the other robots worked, he thought that being back in nature what where he really “belonged.” That’s what we thought about the video! :-)

    • AWESOME! Thanks for leaving us a comment to let us know you checked back for our reply to your other comment, Julia! You are truly an AWESOME Wonder Friend! Keep on WONDERing! :-)

  8. I love robots! In the summer I’m going to make one for the CTY program! I’m excited, but how do you make a robot?

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Do robots wonder?
  • What is a robot?
  • What is artificial intelligence?

Wonder Gallery

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Try It Out

Ready to make your own robot? No, you’re not going to need any special tools or equipment. All you’ll need are your imagination, some paper and a pen.

That’s right! You’re going to create your robot on paper. Think forward into your future and dream about what part robots will play in your life 20 or more years from now.

Will they drive your car for you? Fix you dinner? Play games with you? Babysit your children? This is your vision of the future, and it can be as creative as you want it to be.

Draw a picture or two of what you think robots will look like in the future. Then write a short story about what amazing things your robot will be able to do 20 years from now that robots can’t do today.

When you finish, post your story and pictures on Facebook to share with your Wonder Friends. We can’t wait to hear about the robots of your future!

Still Wondering

Check out Science NetLinks’ Metal Minds lesson to learn more about the basics of how a robot follows commands to carry out a simple task.

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Wonder What’s Next?

Tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day takes a closer look at a geographical phenomenon caused by glaciers!

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