When you say mobile devices, people automatically think of smartphones and tablets. We think of it as an evolving mobile mind, a smartphone being the mobile mind of a robot. The term “mobile device” encompasses so much more than these two examples, and its definition is actually more complicated. Mobile devices fall into different categories, and many kinds are designed for a wide range of applications.
Mobile devices include smartphones, tablets, digital cameras, personal navigation devices, and wearables like smartwatches and fitness trackers. These are portable devices that you can carry with you anywhere. However, computers that can move around, like robots, are also mobile devices.
This article will talk about what a mobile device means and how a robot is a mobile device. You’ll also learn about the different kinds of mobile devices and what they can do.
The Metamorphosis from Smartphones to Robots
It seems that the brain of a Smartphone works well in metamorphosis into Mobile Robots, and it seems to be happening before our very eyes. As our society turns to Robots to do everyday tasks while affording the mobility of a smartphone.
All of the lessons learned through our technological evolution as a species seem to be based on autonomy and mobility. Is the further mobilization of robots with smartphone equivalent brains and artificial intelligence the catalyst for the fully autonomous robotic being?
The growth and interaction of cellular or Wi-Fi connections with global centrally managed mobile cloud-based infrastructures with over the air (OTA) technology allow the users to work online or offline so that data transfer can automatically be completed upon reconnection. This form of connectivity will be very useful in the future autonomy of AI and Robots.
What Are Mobile Devices?
According to popular definition, a mobile device is a handheld computer or electronic device designed to fit in the user’s hand and be portable. These portable devices are powerful enough to perform certain functions of your desktop computer or laptop.
Some of the most common examples of mobile devices include smartphones, tablets, e-readers, laptops, smartwatches, handheld gaming consoles, pocket calculators, digital cameras, personal navigation devices, and wearable computers like smartwatches.
Robots are also mobile devices controlled by a form of simple or complex computer and operating system. They can be controlled by a user or run autonymously. There are also Robotic Mobility Platforms or RMPs. They are mobile robots built and integrated with sensors and computing devices essential for autonomous mobility.
Understanding the Characteristics of a Mobile Device
When it comes to the various characteristics of mobile devices, you have physical dimensions, weight, the kind of host devices they need to connect to, how they communicate with their host device, and when they are mobile. Of course, the device’s size and weight dictate how portable and easy they are to carry around. But portability is not the same as mobility.
According to Lifewire, aside from a size and weight that allows them to be carried in one hand, mobile devices have these similar characteristics:
- Wireless operation
- Access to the internet or WiFi
- Battery to power the device for extended periods
- An onscreen or physical keyboard for information input
- Mostly touchscreen interface
- Virtual assistants, like Google Assistant and Siri
- Capability for downloading online data
Most Mobile Devices Are Technically Not Mobile
Many so-called mobile devices aren’t exactly mobile. In other words, they cannot move around by themselves. Instead, they have a mobile host. For example, with a smartphone, the host is the person who carries it, and that is you.
However, there are computing devices that, in essence, have mobility. They don’t need a host to get from one point to another because you can program them to do it themselves. One example is a robot, a computer equipped with a mechanism that allows them to move around with propellers, wheels, tracks, or legs. You also have an autonomous (self-driving) vehicle, which doesn’t need to have a driver dictate where it should go.
The Mobile Device & Host Relationship
There are three ways by which mobile devices get bound to their hosts. They can either be accompanied, mounted to their host’s surface, or embedded into their host.
“Accompanied” means that the device is loosely bound to the host and is merely accompanying it. Again, you have the smartphone as an example. You, as the host, can carry it in your hand, in your pocket, or in a bag. You can even put it down and not have to carry it on your person.
“Mounted” mobile devices are pretty self-explanatory. Meanwhile, devices “embedded” into the fabric of a mobile host include the computing devices in autonomous vehicles, which is also a robotic vehicle.
Different Types of Mobile Devices Based on Applications
There are different types of mobile devices designed for various applications. Here are a few notable examples:
Mobile computers are portable devices used for machine interaction. Mobile computers are designed to transmit data and communicate through mobile or wireless and infrastructure networks and communication properties, data formats, and protocols. These devices rely on connectivity, interactivity, and individuality.
These devices are portable and handy versions of your desktop computer. Laptops and notebooks, specifically, can handle the same basic functions that your desktop PC performs.
You can open documents and create one. You can play music and videos, read and send emails, check your social media pages, play games, and many more options. Generally, laptops and notebooks are only limited by their storage capacity, so they can’t typically outperform your desktop PC.
Many mobile computers perform a more specialized function. For example, your e-reader may look like a tablet, but you can only use it to read electronic books and documents. Media players can only play media like video and audio clips.
Some of the most common examples of mobile computers are:
- Handheld PC
- Mobile Phone
Laptops and Notebooks
Laptops are portable versions of your desktop computer. Laptops can be extremely sophisticated and powerful, and Notebooks are just smaller cheaper laptops. They’re portable in a way that they don’t have separate components. The CPU, monitor, and keyboard all come in one neat package. Most models even have built-in cameras, speakers, and a mouse.
Laptops and notebooks pretty much share the same functions as your desktop computer. The only difference is that they typically offer a more limited memory and storage. Laptops and notebooks generally have a shorter lifespan than desktop computers as well.
Tablets are portable computers, like laptops, but they offer a different experience in that they run on specially designed apps. What makes their apps unique is that they’re interactive and run on a touch-screen interface. You don’t need a mouse and keyboard to use them. You can operate them by simply touching the screen.
They come in different sizes, but they’re generally smaller than laptops and larger than smartphones. If you need to type and input information, a virtual keyboard will appear on the screen. Popular tablet manufacturers include Apple iPad, Google Pixel, Nexus, and Samsung Galaxy Tab.
These are specialized tablets designed for downloading, storing, and reading digital books. You can either purchase these books or download them for free from a wide selection of online sources. Popular e-reader lines include Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, and Kobo, which are available in many models. Of course, you can also read these digital books on tablets as long as you’ve installed an ebook app.
If a laptop and notebook are smaller and more portable versions of a computer, a handheld PC is significantly smaller. The Handheld PC is now mostly found in handheld PC gaming like in Valve’s gaming handheld is called the Steam Deck. These devices are a new way to play PC games with other devices like the SMACH Z.
This mobile device is also sometimes called a palmtop computer or, more commonly, a PDA or personal digital assistant.
Mobile Phones and Smartphones
Mobile phones, like smartphones and camera phones, are technically still under mobile computers. Still, they’re much more specialized in that they can make and receive calls through a radio frequency link as you move within a particular service area. Modern phone services utilize a cellular network architecture.
These devices also support other services like email, text messaging, Bluetooth connectivity, video games, business applications, and digital photography.
Smartphones, more specifically, are more advanced versions of your traditional cellular phones. They may have the same features as cell phones, including making calls and receiving them, sending and receiving text messages, and voicemail. But they can also access the internet.
You can use Smartphones to:
- Browse the internet
- Send and receive email
- Check your social media pages and update
- Take photos and upload them on social media
- Shop online
- Perform bank transactions like transfer funds
- Receive money from others
- Pay for purchases
- Video call loved ones who are far away
- Stream videos and music
To experience most of these functions, you’ll need to download apps from the internet via a cellular or Wi-Fi connection. These apps will expand the capabilities of your smartphone in a vast number of ways.
Digital cameras include digital camcorders, digital video cameras, and digital still cameras. These devices capture photographs, record videos, and store them in a digital memory until you’re ready to retrieve them. You can retrieve them by printing them on photo paper, downloading and transferring them to your computer, sending them online to another person, or uploading them to a digital album or your social media pages.
You can also integrate them into another mobile device, like smartphones, so you can easily upload them or use them for video calling live. These cameras, therefore, become mobile devices within a mobile device.
Wearable devices are still mobile computers, but you can wear them, typically on your wrist. As such, they are sometimes referred to as body-borne computers. They include smartwatches and fitness trackers.
Most wearables are designed for specialized purposes, like tracking the number of steps you’ve taken, notifying you of a message or phone call with vibration, or synchronizing with your smartphone. In such cases, they feature built-in sensors like heart rate monitors, thermometers, calorie counters, sleep trackers, and accelerometers.
Smartwatch and Fitness Tracker
Many people confuse fitness trackers with smartwatches since both can have the same functions.
Before, there was a clear divide between these two devices. However, as technology advanced, the functions between the two have overlapped or converged. Fitness trackers are more for measuring fitness metrics through sensors. Meanwhile, smartwatches can be used to extend your smartphone, relaying basic data like notifications and allowing you to read text messages and get call alerts when your phone isn’t with you.
Now, smartwatches also have sensors that can track your steps and other fitness goals. And fitness trackers can now be synchronized with your smartphone, so you get to check emails, text messages, and social media pages, among other things.
Another example of wearable computers is smart glasses. These devices are best for augmenting reality or replacing your visual picture of an environment by projecting an image on the interior portion of the glasses. Typically, smart glasses are equipped with a mono-screen or stereo-wearing mini-computer with various sensors, a web camera, IP telephony features, and internet access. One popular example is Google Glass and potentially Facebook’s Ray-Ban ‘smart glasses’.
Right now, many “Smart Glasses” are just glasses with microphones and speakers, but that will change as the technology evolves. We have discussed the potential of this technology in articles such as “Facebook Patents Pioneering Hybrid Bone Conduction Audio Devices: Smartglasses, AR/VR” and “Apple Creates Another New Patent: Air & Bone-Conduction Headphones.”
One future example of using your smart glasses is by displaying the shortest route as you drive through traffic. And when used for entertainment, you can look at the people surrounding you at a family party and compare their faces with their photos on Facebook or Instagram.
Smart clothing, also called smart garments, will be one aspect of the future of wearable technology or wearable computers. Smart clothing is characterized by its fabrics integrated with sensors that track various data types.
Smart Clothing is designed to be a primary mobile wearable device or in addition to other mobile wearable devices. By wearing these types of garments, a large surface of your body is used for reading out data.
Hexoskin is one example of a smart clothing company that has been around since 2006. In 2013 Hexoskin came out with its first washable Smart Shirts that capture cardiac, respiratory, and activity body data.
“Hexoskin is used by researchers, public and private organizations, athletes, and people who value precise, accessible, and useful health data. The Hexoskin Connected Health Platform is currently used for Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence research and projects that will change how patients receive care.”Hexoskin Research
A smart card is an electronic authorization device that you can use to access certain resources. It’s a rectangular plastic card, like a credit card, with an integrated circuit embedded into it.
Many smart cards have a pattern of metal contacts to connect electronically to an internal chip. They can serve as ATM cards, mobile phone SIMs, public transportation cards, and e-wallets. Some smart cards are also contactless, and they can also provide personal identification, data storage, and authentication.
Some smart cards are complex and could accommodate peripherals like a digital keyboard, a fingerprint sensor, or an LED.
“Robot, any automatically operated machine that replaces human effort, though it may not resemble human beings in appearance or perform functions in a humanlike manner. By extension, robotics is the engineering discipline dealing with the design, construction, and operation of robots.” Definition by Hans Peter Moravec for Encyclopedia Britannica – Robot
As described in his definition of Robot above, “any automatically operated machine that replaces human effort” Hans Peter Moravec, an adjunct faculty member at Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute, is also a futurist with publications and predictions focusing on transhumanism.
Hans Moravec is the author of “Mind Children: The Future of Robot and Human Intelligence.” Mr. Moravec predicts that thanks to networking technology, by the year 2040, “there will be no job people can do better than robots.” As we have seen, that is certainly the direction of AI and robotics today.
Superhumanism and Turning Humans Into Cyborgs
Mr. Moravec is also a proponent of Superhumanism and says, “we can change ourselves, we can also build new children who are properly suited for the new conditions. Robot children.” This human augmentation is also proposed by people today like Elon Musk, who likely learned of this from someone like Hans Moravec
But eventually, you won’t need the smartphone or the app because it will all be one unit either as an autonomous robot or connected to us with a link to our brain. Below are further descriptions of the progression of mobile robots.
Unlike big industrial robots or robotic machinery that are typically stationary, mobile robots can move around. Some robots can be autonomous or capable of navigating through their environment independently and without the need for you or other mechanical devices to guide them. An example of autonomous mobile robots is those used by warehouses to move materials efficiently from the stocking shelves to the order fulfillment areas.
Mobile Robots: Functions and Classifications
Mobile robots are software-controlled machines that use sensors and other forms of technology to make sense of their immediate surroundings and move around as they automatically carry out a series of actions.
These robots function through physical robotic elements like wheels, legs, and tracks, combined with computer programming or artificial intelligence. Mobile robots assist in certain work processes, sometimes even accomplishing dangerous or downright impossible tasks for humans to do.
Uses and Functions
A mobile robot’s basic functions include moving, exploring its environment, and performing the tasks that it was designed to do. Its tasks could be as simple as transporting payloads or cargo, or more complex, like using an onboard system.
While the most popular function of mobile robots is industrial in nature, especially in distribution centers and warehouses, they’re also popular in security, personal assistance, medicine and surgery, space and ocean exploration, surveillance, navigation, and toys. Mobile robots can also help you access, inspect, and monitor hazardous areas for humans, such as nuclear power plants with dangerous radiation levels.
It should also be noted that the development and application of robotics for mobile robots designed to tolerate very high levels of radiation like in Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant disaster without getting their electronic circuitry affected, is underway and a high priority for some companies.
Some of the other many applications of mobile robots include:
- Facilities Maintenance
- Ship repair
- Shoreline mines exploration
- Transportation of heavy loads for the military
- Painting and stripping structures
- Manufacture of automated prosthetics designed to mimic the body’s natural functions
- Patrolling and monitoring thermal and environmental conditions, like volcanic eruptions
Classifications of Mobile Robots
Mobile robots receive classifications according to the environment where they function. These different environments would affect the robots’ design principles.
These mobile robot environment classifications are:
- Terrestrial Robots. These are home or land robots that are also commonly known as unmanned ground vehicles. These robots navigate the moon or mars or within houses or on dry land. They’re popular for a wide range of purposes, the most common of which is transportation and delivery of goods and disaster response.
- Aquatic or Underwater Robots. These robots are also known as autonomous underwater vehicles or robotic fish. These mobile aquatic robots can submerge, sail through, or crawl underwater without any humans directing them. These robots are helpful for mitigation projects focused on human-induced ecological or marine disasters like oil spills or helping with artificial structures like dams.
- Aerial Robots. Also known as unmanned aerial vehicles, these aerial robots or drones can fly in the air, governed by bird-like dynamics. Aerial robots have many military applications and for purposes of surveillance and targeting. They’re even common for strike missions. Civilian applications, meanwhile, include disaster response, remote sensing, surveillance, transportation, image acquisition, and delivery of goods.
- Polar Mobile Robots. These are robots that can traverse icy and uneven terrain. Technically, they can also fall under terrestrial robots. These robots can be used for space exploration on icy planets or in arctic parts of our world.
- Amphibious Robots. These are robots that are suited for both land and water. Compared with standard mobile robots, amphibious robots work in many different climate conditions and surroundings. Some amphibious robots are capable of rolling, walking, flying, floating, or swimming.
Subclasses of Mobile Robots
Robots can also earn classifications according to their driving force or the device that they use to move. There are mobile robots that can move with wheels, tracks, legs, or wings. Terrestrial mobile robots can move on legs, tracks, or wheels. Aerial robots need fixed wings or rotary wings to move. Meanwhile, the driving force of mobile aquatic robots can be fins, tails, fins, thrusters, paddles, wings, paddle wheels, or air pumps.
Autonomous vs. Non-Autonomous Mobile Robots
Aside from these two classifications, there are two basic types of mobile robots: the non-autonomous and the largely autonomous.
Autonomous Mobile Robots
Autonomous functions are the things that robots can do by themselves and without guidance. However, strictly speaking, all robots possess specific autonomous capabilities. Without any degree of autonomy, a robot can never be considered a robot.
Autonomous mobile robots or AMRs can move by themselves and explore their surroundings without human direction. They can accomplish tasks without being controlled by external commands.
Non-Autonomous Mobile Robots
Non-autonomous mobile robots are those mobile robots that need a guidance system for their every move. Most non-autonomous robots are equipped with sensors that give their human operators remote access to the location.
Semi-Autonomous Mobile Robots
Most mobile robots are partially controlled and partially autonomous, also called semi-autonomous. That’s to say that while they can move and function autonomously, they are also controlled by certain external commands.
One example of a semi-autonomous robot is a factory robot, which may perform a specific task. Still, it receives commands from an automation system regarding when and where to go and do that task. Such a robot may also be equipped with a remote control that its human operators can use, or perhaps an emergency shut-off button.
Another example of semi-autonomous robots are drones with an autopilot that stabilizes their flight but whose flight path is chosen or controlled by a human. There’s also a robot in a pipe, which can independently move inside the pipe. However, it needs humans to find and identify the defects that need to be fixed.
Classification of Mobile Robots by Application Field
There are two classifications of mobile robots in terms of their field of application. They can either be industrial robots or service robots. Here’s the difference:
Industrial Mobile Robots
Industrial mobile robots are designed to replace human workers in simple and repetitive tasks in a specified order within a well-defined environment. For example, robots in factory assembly lines can operate without human workers present. There are also robots used to transport goods and products to and from warehouses.
Service Mobile Robots
Service mobile robots are designed to assist humans in performing their tasks. These mobile robots are intended to help with house chores, like robotic vacuum cleaners and lawnmowers. These also include robots that assist humans in transportation, such as self-driving cars.
There are service robots for defense, including reconnaissance drones too. Robots used in medicine, surgery, rehabilitation, and training are also considered service robots.
The Ever-Increasing Intelligence of (AMRs) Autonomous Mobile Robots
How smart are current-generation (AMRs) autonomous mobile robots? Today multiple robots can be controlled centrally from a single location. The most advanced systems use networks with cellular or wifi, AI, and fleet management systems that manage all of the robot’s priorities.
The AI system monitors the robot’s maintenance battery levels, automatically manages docking and recharging, and controls where the robots are and where they want them to go. They can be dispatched and directed with an App on your smartphone or be controlled through a network.
With AI Machine Learning, AMRs can learn to adapt to their environment. Artificial intelligence coupled with Lidar camera sensors scan a room and plan its routes and actions. Today this is used in your house with a robotic vacuum all the way to massive factories or warehouses with companies like Amazon or Tesla. In the future, these AMRs will be coming to a place near you.
Many technological devices that you use today, especially ones that you can connect to the internet and carry around, are mobile devices. In fact, “mobile” mainly refers to “portable” when you talk about devices and gadgets.
Smartphones, laptops, e-readers, and digital cameras are just a few of them. However, there are also devices that you can call mobile because of their mobility or ability to move around unassisted, like a mobile robot.
Mobile autonomous robots are connected through a global interface network coupled with artificial intelligence. AI will be integral to the continued learned behavior with technology like 5G giving even more autonomy and speed to information for the Metamorphosis from Smartphones to Robots.
- Wikipedia: Mobile Device
- Wikipedia: Wearable Computer
- Wikipedia: Smart Card
- Wikipedia: Mobile Robot
- Goodwill Community: What is a Mobile Device
- Study.com: Mobile Devices: Examples, Impact & Trends
- TechTarget – IoT Agenda: Mobile Robot (Mobile Robotics)
- Online Sciences: Aquatic robots (Swimming Robots or Robot Fish) types, uses, cons & pros
- Springer Link: Robots and Their Applications
- Springer Link: Aerial Robotics
- Teslasuit: What is wearable computer: simple guide to the technology
- Gear Patrol: Which Should You Buy: Smartwatch Or Fitness Tracker?