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Thinking Like a Robot

Human beings are very complex and can think in very complex ways. Sometimes we think about things consciously, and sometimes unconsciously. Do you ever have to think about breathing in order to make yourself breathe? What about doing a math problem? Now consider how you got from the door of the classroom to your seat. Did you think about every step and turn, or were you thinking of something else?

Robots do not think about many things, and they do not have a subconscious to help them out the way humans do. Robots can only do what they are programmed to do. All robot tasks can be broken down into simpler ones, and these simpler tasks are known as behaviors—the building blocks of robotics programming.

A behavior is a way that a robot acts, and can range from basic to complex, depending on how the robot is built or programmed. A simple mobile robot like the Autopilot only has two motors, so its behaviors will involve turning those motors to accomplish its goals. Autopilot will use simple behaviors such as moving forward, reverse, and turning to accomplish larger tasks.

So how do you think like a robot? Imagine a task you want the robot to do. Now imagine each and every step that the robot would need to do in order to perform that task. Those are the behaviors you would need to program to achieve the task.