Ever since we evolved from apes to humans, we have been weaving out wonders upon wonders, that have opened up a new world of civilization and progress. From striking stones to produce fire, to living in strong, secure homes and flying off to new lands without wings, we’ve done it all. Then should we underestimate our intellect and caliber by performing monotonous, repetitive tasks?
And so, using our limitless capabilities and inquisitiveness, we have even managed to design agile, efficient creatures; sans the tears and heartaches. These creatures possess enough strength to perform the same tasks over and over again, but fortunately lack the inquisitiveness and intelligence to experience boredom and look for a change. Yes, you guessed right…we’re talking about our robot buddies.
Ever since the inception of the very first robot in 1954, we have escalated to having innumerable such tasks delegated to robots, while we work on other more intellectual and gratifying tasks. But when it comes to the 21st Century world, it’s a whole different story. Today, human race is oscillating between two interrelated (and sometimes quite muddled up!) worlds – the real, physical world, and the virtual online world. If the real world consists of real robots performing industrial tasks, the virtual world comprises of virtual robots performing software tasks. The similarity – both perform repetitive, monotonous tasks that allow humans to do greater things. The differences? Let’s see:

1. Umm…no, you can’t see a bot. But you can feel its presence…
Robot. The word may most likely give rise to a distinct image in your mind – metallic and robust, with a robotic vocal sound that responds to your commands with some tutored words…that’s your physical robot, which can do wonders in a real, tangible environment. But a process robot is nothing like a physical robot. A process robot is somewhat like the air around us – the naked eye cannot see it, but its presence can be felt all the time. Hiding behind the hardware of your screen, they can make your life much more efficient and hassle-free.

2. Your process robot works “behind the screen”.
There’s a lot of ground-work that goes into any form of industrial sector. Employment and progress often involves stagnant and monotonous behind the scenes tasks; such as welding, product inspection and testing, labelling and painting in the tangible world; and tasks such as mindless data entry in the software one. And both types of tasks call for automation, for the simple reason that they are both rule-based, and promote stagnation. While your physical robot performs the tangible rule-based tasks required to be done at the workplace, your process robot performs similar tasks from within your computer screen.

3. There’s “work in progress” everywhere. Only, the workers are differently skilled.
Since physical robots have an external countenance, making a robot involves not only programming and automation, but also external designing and development. And hence, the process of manufacturing industrial robots is quite different from developing a software one. However, the manufacturing process for both has a similar basis – of creating entities that will serve a definite purpose in the organization.

4. Maintain your robot, if you wish to retain your robot.
While a robot is incapable of experiencing boredom or applying elsewhere for work, it is not an invincible force by any means, and hence, requires regular maintenance and update. Your physical robot is…well, physical; and so, it requires to be maintained both physically (hardware) and mentally (software) in order to function in an optimal manner. In contrast, process robots, as already mentioned, are not physical entities. Does that mean they do not require maintenance? The air around us is invisible, but clean air aids better health, isn’t it? It’s the same with process robots. While they aren’t visible, they need to be constantly monitored even after deployment in order to ensure that they continue to perform in the manner expected. Moreover, they have to be scalable, i.e. flexible enough to be updated as and when required by the respective industry.

At the end of the day, while the activities performed on either side of the monitor may be different, the purpose and motives of development and deployment of bots is common and binding – reduction of rule-based labour, and promotion of more innovative ones. As Rod Grupen rightly pointed out:

“At bottom, robotics is about us. It is the discipline of emulating our lives, of wondering how we work.”

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