Definitions are fluid.  They change a little bit over time and new terms are always popping up, especially in these fields.  This glossary is designed to give a quick, basic functional explanation of the concept.  The glossary will be added to regularly.

Robot: Robot is a broad and all-encompassing term.  Most people have a conceptual understanding of a robot from media, cartoons, the work place etc.  Typically mechanical, usually electronically with the brains being a computer program or electronic circuitry.  The term robot covers everything from a humanoid shaped household assistant, to a factory welding machine used to make cars and even unmanned aerial vehicles (drones).  Robots have replaced human in a range of activities which are dangerous, difficult or just annoying and are a driving force behind technological unemployment.

Automation: Automation is the process of replacing human labor with automatic mechanical control systems.  The new control system operates machinery and equipment, processes in factories for manufacturing, communications equipment, aircraft, banking services – basically anything.  Technological unemployment results from automation, but quality control, precision and in some case energy consumption are all improved.  Automation can be achieved by any combination of the following: mechanical systems, hydraulic systems, pneumatic systems, electrical systems and computational power.

Artificial Intelligence: Known as AI for short, Artificial Intelligence is simply machines acting in a smart way.  Well what is ‘smart’?  Anytime a machine mimics human cognitive functions such as learning or problem solving, it is considered intelligent.  Note, that what is considered AI is changing all the time.  AI of the past is considered routine today and what not be labelled as such.  For an example of current AI – search for IBM Watson in YouTube.  The central research areas under the AI branch include reasoning, knowledge, planning, learning, communication, perception and manipulation of objects.

Co-Bot: Co-bot is short for Collaborative Robots.  These are robots which are designed to work alongside a human counterpart in the workplace.  Rather than work autonomously, with little human intervention (outside of maintenance), cobots help humans with things like heavy lifting.  Office applications of cobots now exist and the sub-branch of robotics has spawned yet another new term, “IAD” or “Intelligence Assist Device”.

Swarm Robots: Swarm robotics is a new approach to the coordination of multiple robot systems, which consist of large numbers of physical robots (think bees as the name implies).  The name actually came from biological studies of insects, where collective behavior occurs.  Swarm robotics emphasizes a large number of bots and promotes scalability.  Applications are huge, but include things like nanobots for delivering medical treatment inside the human body or in disaster recovery missions, mining or other ‘foraging’ type work.

Soft Robotics: This field details with robotics built from soft, pliable materials like silicone, rubber, fabric and springs.  They can undergo dramatic alterations to their shape, which alters their interaction with the environment.  Safety is also improved via soft robotics.  Soft robots can grab / interact with unusually shaped things and can store and release energy via springs.  They are often cheaper to produce than traditional robots, but they are harder to control.

Technological Unemployment: This is simply, the loss of jobs due to technological change.  An historical example are the cloth weavers left destitute when mechanical looms were invented.  A modern example would be cashiers made redundant by self-service checkouts.  The famous economist, John Maynard Keynes coined the term in the 1930’s, but discussion of the concept has been around since Aristotle.  In the second decade of the 21st Century, a number of studies released have concluded that the rate of technological unemployment is increasing and set to dramatically spike due to robotics, automation and AI.

Technology Assisted Review: Basically this is a machine, scanning an infinite number of digital or paper documents or data.  This technology is already changing the legal profession, where scanning case file and historical precedents used to be a major part of job.  TAR is another umbrella term – which includes things like deduplication, visual analytics, predictive coding, workflow management etc.

UAV: Unmanned Aerial Vehicle.  This is an aircraft with no pilot on board.  They can be large e.g. used by the military or small, like a consumer sized drone.  UAV’s are remotely controlled by a pilot back at base or can be controlled by pre-programmed flight instructions to fly autonomously.

Innovation: Innovation is simply the process of coming up with a new idea, device or method.  Invention would be the idea, device or method itself.  If innovation is a process – then the steps would include; (1.) idea generation, (2.) idea selection, (3.) idea implementation, (4.) sustaining the idea, (5.) idea diffusion.  Joseph Schumpeter is considered the grandfather of innovation theory and he came up with 5 different forms of innovation, (A.) the introduction of a new good or service, (B.) the introduction of a new method of production, (C.) the opening of a new market, (D.) developing a new source of supply, (E.) changing the structure of an industry.

Creative Destruction: A concept crafted by Joseph Schumpeter, who derived it from Karl Marx.  According to Schumpeter, creative destruction is “the process of industrial mutation that incessantly revolutionises the economic structure from within, increasingly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one”.  Examples could include the destruction of a company like Polaroid – whose dominance and profits vanished as rivals pushed digital photography into the market.