Robotic systems continue to evolve, slowly penetrating many areas of our lives, from manufacturing, medicine and remote exploration to entertainment, security and personal assistance. Developers in Japan are currently building robots to assist the elderly, while NASA develops the next generation of space explorers, and artists are exploring new avenues of entertainment. Collected here are a handful of images of our recent robotic past, and perhaps a glimpse into the near future.
Humanoid robots Wakamaru, produced by Japan's Mitsubishi Heavy Industry, named Momoko (R) and Takeo (L) in the performace, take part in a drama for the world's first robot and human experimental theatre, written and directed by Japanese playwright Oriza Hirata, at Japan's Osaka University in Osaka, western Japan on November 25, 2008. (YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP/Getty Images)
Twendy-One demonstrates its ability to hold delicate objects by manipulating a drinking straw between its fingers at the Department of Mechanical Engineering laboratory in Waseda University in Tokyo, Japan, Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2009. The sophisticated robot has been developed by the university's team, led by Dr. Shigeki Sugano, in hope of supporting people in aging societies. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi).
NASA's Limbed Excursion Mechanical Utility Robot (LEMUR) is being designed as an inspection/maintena nce robot for equipment in space. A scaled-up version of Lemur IIa, could help build large structures in space. The Lemur IIa pictured here is shown on a scale model of a segmented telescope. (NASA/Planetary Robotics Laboratory).
Surgeons use a robot named da Vinci to aid a hernia operation, at the University Hospital Geneva, in Geneva, Switzerland, Thursday, Nov. 13, 2008. The University Hospitals of Geneva opened the department for robotic surgery in 2008, where between 50 and 80 surgeons from around the world will have the possibility to train with da Vinci each year. (AP Photo/Keystone, Salvatore Di Nolfi).
Spanish Queen Sofia King Juan Carlos, Japan's Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko react after watching watching a performance of a robotic suit called HAL (Hybrid Assistive Limb), which can lift up to 30kg rice bags, at Tsukuba University north of Tokyo on November 12, 2008. (KATSUMI KASAHARA/AFP/ Getty Images).
An Explosive Ordinance Disposal robot places an explosive device next to a suspicious package during a demonstration conducted by members of the Special Operations Command Central Command Explosive Ordinance Disposal Unit for participants of the Joint Civilian Orientation Conference 72, at Camp Lemonier, Djibouti, Oct. 21, 2006.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel poses with a robot called "Bruno" at the stand of the Darmstadt University of Technology during the third national IT summit in Darmstadt November 20, 2008. (REUTERS/Alex Grimm).
Tokyo Fire Department's rescue robot transfers a mock victim onto itself during an anti-terrorism exercise in the response to a radiological dispersal device in Tokyo, on November 7, 2008. Tokyo Metropolitan government conducted the exercise with eleven organisations including Metropolitan Police Department. (TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA/AFP/ Getty Images).
A biomimetic underwater robot, named "RoboLobster" , designed by Professor Joseph Ayers, is seen, Aug. 17, 2007, in Nahant, Massachusetts. RoboLobster is intended to be used to recognize changes in seawater and to locate and destroy underwater mines. (Robert Spencer).