Is robotics part of AI? Is AI part of robotics? What is the difference among the two terms? We answer this basic question.

Robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) have very different purposes. However, people often confuse them.

Many people wonder if robotics is a subset of artificial intelligence. Others wonder if they are the same.

Since the first kind of this article publish in 2017, the question has become even more confusing. In recent years, the growing use of the word “robot” for any automation has thrown even more questions about how robotics and artificial intelligence fit together (more on this at the end of the article).

Time to fix things once and for all.

Are Robotics And Artificial Intelligence The Same?

The first thing to explain is that robotics and artificial intelligence are not the same at all. The two camps are almost entirely separate.

A Venn diagram of the two parks would look like this:

As you can see, there is a small area where the two fields overlap: Artificial Smart Robots. Within this overlap, people sometimes blur the two concepts.

To appreciate how these three terms relate to each other, let’s look at each one individually.

What is Robotics?


Robotics is a branch of technology that pacts with physical robots. Robots are programmable machines that can generally perform a series of actions autonomously or semi-autonomously.

  • In my opinion, three critical factors make a robot:
  • Robots interact with the physical world through sensors and actuators.
  • The robots are programmable.
  • Robots are usually autonomous or semi-autonomous.

I say that robots are “normally” autonomous because some robots are not. A human operator entirely controls telerobots, but telerobotics still classifies as a branch of robotics. It is an example where the meaning of robotics is not very clear.

It is surprisingly difficult to get experts to agree on what precisely a “robot” is. Some people say that a robot needs to be able to “think” and make decisions. However, there is no typical definition of “robotic thinking.” Requiring a robot to “think” suggests that it has some level of artificial intelligence. Still, many non-intelligent robots out there show that thinking cannot be a prerequisite for a robot.

Regardless of how you want to define a robot, robotics involves designing, building, and programming physical robots that interact with the physical world. Only a tiny part of robotics includes artificial intelligence.

What Is Artificial Intelligence?

Artificial intelligence (AI) is a subdivision of computer science. It involves the development of computer programs to perform tasks that would otherwise require human intelligence. Algorithms can address learning, perception, problem-solving, language comprehension, and reasoning.

AI use in various ways in the modern world. AI algorithms are used, for example, in Google searches, Amazon’s recommendation engine, and GPS route finders. Most AI programs do not use to control robots.

Even when AI is used to control robots, AI algorithms are only one part of the larger robotic system, including

Often, but not always, AI involves some degree of machine learning, in which an algorithm is “trained” to respond to a given input in a certain way, using known inputs and outputs. We discussed machine learning in our article Robot Vision vs. Computer Vision: What’s the difference?

The key that distinguishes AI from more conventional programming is the word “intelligence.” Non-AI programs only execute a defined order of directions. AI programs mimic a convinced level of human intelligence.

Also Read: What is Artificial Intelligence? How does it work?

What Are Artificially Intelligent Robots?

Robots with artificial intelligence are the bridge between robotics and AI. These are robots controlled by AI programs.

Most robots are not artificially intelligent. Till recently, all industrial robots could only program to perform a repetitive sequence of movements that, as discussed, does not require artificial intelligence. However, non-intelligent robots have minimal functionality.

AI algorithms are necessary if the robot is to perform more complex tasks.

A warehouse robot can use a route search algorithm to navigate the warehouse. A drone could use autonomous navigation to return home when the battery runs out. An autonomous car could use a combination of artificial intelligence algorithms to identify and avoid potential road hazards. These are all examples of artificially intelligent robots.

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