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. 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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