Your View: How would you define a robot?

The word robot made its debut in 1921, in the play R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots) by Karel Capek. It comes from the word "robota", a Czech term for forced labour. But definitions of what a robot actually is vary widely.

Alan Mackworth, the director of the University of British Columbia Laboratory for Computational Intelligence and president of the American Association for Artificial Intelligence, says:

"It's a machine that can sense and act and react in the world and possibly involves some reasoning for performing these actions, and it does so autonomously. By that definition a thermostat would be a robot. Though it's not 'aware' it has a goal, that awareness isn't required."

Rodney Brooks, the director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology computer science and artificial intelligence laboratory, says:

"To me a robot is something that has some physical effect on the world, but it does it based on how it senses the world and how the world changes around it."

Gregory Dudek, the director of the Centre for Intelligent Machines at McGill University in Montreal, sets three criteria for robots.

"They have to have a way of making measurements of the world, they have to have a way of making decisions — in other words, something like a computer, you could call that thinking informally — and they have to have a way taking actions."

Joseph Engelberger has been called the father of robotics. Asked to define a robot, he once said

"I can't define a robot, but I know one when I see one."

How would you define a robot? Click the Submit Your Comment link below and tell us. And see CBC.ca's Robotics feature series here (new features will be added daily through July 20).