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Sunday, 14 December 2014

167) The “25 Euro Silver-Niobium Coin Series: (ix) 2003 onwards minted by the Austrian Mint: Ninth Coin in the Series: “Robotics” (2011):

167) The “25 Euro Silver-Niobium Coin Series: 2003 onwards (ix) minted by the Austrian Mint by using Niobium and Niobium metal insertion technology for the first time anywhere in the World of Numismatics:

Ninth Coin in the Series: “Robotics” (2011):

Robotics is the branch of mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and computer science which deals with the design, construction, and application of robots and the computer systems for their control, sensory feedback and information processing.

In a sense, Robotics deals with automated machines which can substitute humans in dangerous environments, manufacturing processes, space exploration etc. Robots can be made to resemble humans in appearance, behaviour and cognitive capabilities. Many of present day robots have been inspired by nature contributing to the field of bio-inspired robotics.

Today robotics is rapidly expanding with technological advances and research, design and making of new robots serves various practical purposes in domestic, commercial/industrial and military areas particularly in those jobs which are considered hazardous to humans like defusing bombs, mines, exploring shipwrecks etc.

Some interesting developments in the history of Robotics:

The concept of creating machines operating autonomously dates back to ancient times.

In Greek Mythology, Talos or Talon was a giant man-like robot made of bronze by Hephaestus, the blacksmith of the Gods, who was a gift to Europa, Queen of Crete given by Zeus to protect her and Crete from pirates and invaders. Talos kept guard by circling the island’s shores three times every day. This mythological robot could lift heavy rocks and giant sized weapons and hurl them at approaching unidentified ships which appeared to be hostile to Crete. Talos was ultimately destroyed by Jason and the Argonauts (whose ship was wrecked by Talos by hurling giant boulders at the “Argo”). It is said that a nail was removed by Jason from Talos’ foot, which made the “ichor” (the blood of the Gods), coursing through Talos’ artificial veins flow out. The giant robot haemorrhaged to his end and fell off a cliff into the sea.

Around  1000 BC , there is a mention in the “Lie Zi” text in China, in which Yan Shi, a mechanical engineer or an “artificer” presented the King with a mechanical life-size, human shaped figure.

Around 420 BCE, Archytas of Tarentum created a wooden, steam propelled bird which was able to fly.

In 250 BC Ctesibius, an ancient Greek engineer & mathematician invented a water clock which was the most accurate clock for nearly 2000 years.

Around 60 AD, several descriptions of at least 100 machines including a fire engine, wind organ, a coin operated machine and a steam powered machine appeared in “Pneumatica” which contained elaborate descriptions of machines working on air, steam or water pressure, including the “Hydraulis” or water organ,  in  “Automata” which contained a description of machines used for opening and closing temple doors, statues that poured water and wine etc, and in “Mechanica” (methods for lifting heavy objects) among other works written  by Heron or Hero of Alexandria.  Heron is considered to be the greatest experimenter of Greek Antiquity. Hero published a well recognised description of a steam-powered machine called an “aeolipile” or a “Hero Engine”. He is credited with having designed the first automated programmable machine.

Around 1206 AD, Al-Jazari created a humanoid “Automata”, a hand-washing automaton and automated moving peacocks.

In 1495 AD, Leonardo da Vinci developed a humanoid robot which was called a mechanical knight.

In 1738 AD, a mechanical duck that could eat, flap its wings etc. was made by Jacques de Vaucanson.

In 1898 AD, the first radio controlled submersible boat was invented by Nikola Tesla.

In 1921 AD, the term “Robot” was coined by Karel Capek in the play “Rossum’s Universal Robots”.

In 1941 AD, Isaac Asimov introduced the word “Robotics” in the science fiction short story “Liar”.

In 1948 AD, William Grey Walter built Elmer and Elsie, two of the earliest autonomous robots with the appearance of turtles.

What is a Robot?:

A robot is a machine, generally having arms, wheels or legs, which operate automatically. A robot which is designed on a human is termed as a “humanoid”.

 Basically, a robot is a system that contains sensors, control systems, manipulators, power supplies and software, all working together to perform a specific task. Designing, building, programming and testing a robot is a combination of Physics, Mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, structural engineering, mathematics and computing. A robot generally has the following parts:

-      Sensors – comparable to/which simulate human eyes, ears and sensory perception. Nevertheless, a robot has no other capability to perceive the environment, other than to perform pre-determined tasks. Robotic sensors generally consist of those which can “sense” the external environment and others which can sense the internal state of the robot. Some External Sensors are – light sensor (eyes), touch, pressure and contact sensor (hand), proximity sensor,  hearing and sonar sensors (ears), taste sensor (tongue), chemical sensor (nose) etc. while Internal Sensors can be gyro (for keeping the robot balanced), accelerometer (for measuring movement), temperature (regulating internal temperature).

-      Movement – A robot needs to move around in its environment, either on wheels, walking on legs or propelled by thrusters.

-      Energy – A robot needs to be able to power itself. It may be solar powered, electrically powered or battery powered. The energy source needs to be provided depending on what the robot is required to do and the readily available source of the power supply. For example, space rovers on Mars or other planets/moons are solar powered.

There is the interesting example of a Euro Space Agency Rover being obstructed by a rock like protrusion which prevented it from powering itself from solar energy and “going off to sleep”.

-      Tools & Attachments – generally referred to as an “end effector”, which are used to interact with the environment and to carry out pre-determined tasks which the robot is designed to perform, say welding, painting, gather soil samples & analysis, checking out security risks, opening doors etc., in several cases with an attachment resembling a human hand termed “universal gripper”. Grippers can be mechanical or may be vacuum driven.

-      Intelligence: Every robot needs to have a built-in programme which allows it to process information in accordance with that programme and to act accordingly.

All Robots contain some level of computer programming (code). Robots designed for performing specific tasks are generally categorised as Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs), Automated Underwater Vehicles (AUVs), Bomb Disposal, Entertainment, Industrial, Military Reconnaissance, Robotic surgery, Space Rovers etc.

State of Art robots:

The early models of robots were designed to “walk like humans”. The next Series focussed on “walk stabilisation” and “steps climbing”.

Later robots were built with heads, body and arms to improve balance, walk on uneven slopes and surfaces, turn smoothly, climb stairs and to add other functionalities.

Using camera eyes, robots can recognise the faces of a pre-determined individual or group of individuals, map their environment and register stationary objects as well as avoid moving obstacles while moving in its environment and transmit information to a remote control centre as well.

 Robots are now being designed to assist elderly or persons confined to a bed or wheel-chair and act as eyes, ears, hands and legs for all kinds of people in need. They can be equipped with latest speech synthesis technology and can speak in natural sounding voices. Robots can be fitted with touch sensors on the head and body to achieve various interactions with children from a wide range of ages and adults etc.

Swarm Robotics:

In an ant colony, there is no single or group of ants organising the multifarious work or “duties”. However, ants are able to build relatively large ant-hills which are huge complex structures and forage for food in a seemingly co-operative way where every ant seems to know what it is required to do. For such a small size which the ant has, these ant-hills last for several generations are story(ies) high structures. When we visited Ghana in February 2013, we got to know from our host that, he tried to demolish one of these abandoned ant-hills by using the force of his tractor to bring it down, but the anthill stayed as it was and the tractor instead sustained some damage. Ant hills have been found to be so strong that there is research going on in Ghana to substitute concrete with the material used by these small ants in the anthills in construction of buildings.

The observation that the cooperation in ants and other small animal forms achieves wonders by working in a systematic way, has led to the concept of swarm robotics, a branch of robotics, which is concerned with modelling this cooperative behaviour of large groups of robots.

Soft Robotics:

       Traditionally, robots have been made from hard materials for example metals and plastic. They were driven by motors and other heavy electro-mechanical actuators which are like “muscles” of a robot. As such, robots were more like machines than biological organisms.

        Soft robotics seeks to make robots that are soft, flexible and compliant, just like biological organisms. The body of a soft robot simulates natural tissue. These robots are driven not by heavy motors, but by soft artificial muscles. The energy store in a soft robot resembles a biological stomach rather than a conventional electrical battery. Sensors and transducers in a soft robot tend to mimic biological sensor systems. As such, a soft robot is more like an artificial organism rather than a machine. For example, an artificial soft robotic octopus can search for victims under collapsed buildings following a natural disaster. When it finds a person trapped under the fallen structure, it exerts localised forces to create an air pocket. Some components of soft robotics are Artificial muscles (soft electro-active and chemo-active actuators), Artificial Stomach (bio-inspired energy supplies), Soft sensors (tactile sensors and active skins), Soft Brain (neuro-control of soft actuators and sensors).

        Some applications include artificial autonomous organisms that are self-sufficient and self-repairing, soft rescue robots, robots that interact with humans, medical robotics and devices, morphing materials and structures for engineering, for example, in the movie “iRobot”.

        Presence sensing systems are allowing robots and humans to safely work in close proximity without barriers, by using inter-facing safety-rated software for vision and robot motion.

        Robots are cleverly focussing their movements to finely tuned angles and reshaping the robot cell, reducing its footprint and providing robot users more creativity and flexibility in safely automating new processes. The primary enabler is safety-rated soft axis and space limiting technology.

       With new standards of space and speed limiting, now there is no need to put artificial obstructions to block a robot’s movements in an undesired zone, but now one is able to embed more of the safety related functions in the robot controller and eliminate the need for external fixtures or mechanical devices to provide this functionality. For example, Robocop in the movie Series by the same name is programmed not to attack or harm its creators in any way, even if when it assessed them to have a criminal intent/action.

        Tiny electrically activated “muscles” are providing scientists an opportunity to explore creating microscopic robots that are smaller than a grain of sand.

 The chains of particles that make up these muscles can also lead to electronics that can automatically rewire themselves as desired.

The day may not be too far when microscopic robots or microbots can be injected inside a human body to fight disease or crawl into bombs to defuse them among several other tasks.


        The science of bio-robotics is used to give robots graceful movements which simulate animal or human movement. Bio-robotic machines can be used for studying hydrodynamics, biomechanics, neuroscience and prosthetic limbs for human use. Interesting inclusions are  Robotic fishes which have a flexible tail section enabling them to move realistically through water, limbless robot snakes which can move by undulating their “bodies” in the same way as a snake or even walking robots which can move with a human-like gait.

        Artificial Intelligence:

        Artificial Intelligence or (A.I.) is a term introduced by John McCarthy in 1956, which is used for robots having intelligent properties like reasoning, planning and learning. An example of A.I. is face recognition. A.I. techniques for this purpose use “Artificial Neural Network” (ANN) which can be trained to “recognise” and identify objects from images not contained in its database. This is achieved by showing the Neural Network a number of images of each face from different angles and in different light conditions.

        Through this method, it is possible for the Neural Network to create an average image of the face, which can be used in later comparisons to find the closest match. For example, this technology is useful in locations like airports for identifying persons. However, face recognition technology is not an exact match all the time, leading to terms called “False Reject Rate” (FRR) or “False Accept Rate” (FAR) for describing the errors the face recognition system throws out.

Some other uses:

The majority of the robots are found in industries for example – car manufacturing and in places where they perform tasks otherwise considered dangerous or difficult/repetitive.

Robots are used at home for vacuum cleaning and for lawn mowing.

Robotics has contributed in several fields including entertainment and education. Popular Movie Robots like the Androids in Star Wars, Terminator Series, Star Trek: the Next Generation, Transformers and Wall-e have provided entertainment for the young and adults alike. Some robots like the Mars Rovers and underwater robots help scientists to gather information in areas which are otherwise considered too dangerous for humans. In the movie Real Steel, a robot simulates the actions of its human owner to win several robotic physical strength contests and emerge as a winner.

Robot pets often called “cyber pets” are very popular which simulate sleeping, breathing, yawning, wagging tails etc. Many universities have used robotic kits to teach students in the fields of robotics and engineering.

A new germ-zapping robot has been developed, which could stop the spread of deadly viruses like Ebola, uses pulses of high intensity, high energy U.V. rays to split open bacterial cell walls and kill dangerous pathogens.

        The DARPA Robotics Challenge:

In 2004 the First “DARPA (Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency) Grand Challenge” was introduced, which was sponsored by the US Department of Defence, in which the challenge was designed to create autonomous vehicles for warfare.

 In this competition, robots are required to undergo a series of trials that test their ability to navigate disaster areas and perform tasks with specialised tools. This competition pits various robot systems and software teams from around the world against each other in a bid to develop robots capable of assisting humans in responding to natural and man-made disasters.

In the competition robots are required to make their way through obstacle courses and pass skill-testing scenarios. These include driving a utility vehicle at the site, travelling dismounted across rubble, removing debris from an entryway, opening a door and entering a building, climbing an industrial ladder and traversing an industrial walkway using tools to break a concrete panel, locating and closing a valve near a leaking pipe and connecting a fire hose to a stand-pipe and turn on a valve.

The Competition tests the absolute limits of the robot’s ability to function on its own, without human assistance while tackling unexpected interference and connectivity issues. The team which demonstrates the best human-supervised robot technology for disaster response is awarded a $ 2 million prize.

However, the challenge has demonstrated that the human form is cumbersome and unreliable when powered by actuators and batteries, rather than flesh and blood. This is an irony, considering that one of the aims of the Challenge is to develop robots capable of performing human tasks in conditions considered to be unsafe for human beings. In other words, the most efficient robots may not be the ones which mimic “human biology” but those whose form and function is most suited to a particular task.

LAWS: LAWS (or Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems) are now all set to change the face of modern warfare. Several Nations, including the USA, UK, Russia, Israel and South Korea are all at advanced stages of developing "killer" robots. One of the examples of such "killer" robots is SGR-A 1 - a military Robot designed to police the demilitarised zone between North and South Korea. The Robot, fitted with a 5.56 mm automatic machine gun, is deadly as it tracks multiple moving targets via infra-red sensors and can identify and shoot a target automatically from two miles away.
Nevertheless, in the absence of human intervention, as it is implied by the term "autonomous", such weapons are dangerous and unethical as they delegate powers to machines, which inherently lack any compassion or intuition to make life and death decisions. LAWS may not be able to distinguish between combatants and non-combatants because they lack morality and judgement. As such using them in limited or full fledged warfare will make wars even more inhumane.

The Vituvian Man:

“Le proporzioni del corpo umano second Vitruvio” or “The Vitruvian Man” is a drawing by Leonardo da Vinci made on 30.11.1504, when he was 52 years old. It is accompanied by notes based on the work of the architect Vitruvius. The drawing and accompanying text is also referred to as the “Canon of Proportions” or the “Proportions of Man”.

The drawing is based on the correlations of ideal human proportions with geometry described by the ancient Roman architect Vitruvius (80 BC – 15 BC) in Book III of his treatise “De Architectura”, in which Vitruvius has described the human figure as being the principal source of proportion among the Classical orders of Architecture.

Vitruvius opined that the ideal body should be “eight head high”. He, further, wrote that “a building should be symmetric and proportionate to be beautiful. Both attributes can be found in nature and there is no more perfect natural example in symmetry and proportion than the human body”.

Leonardo’s drawing is named in honour of Vitruvius and it combines a careful reading of the ancient text with Leonardo’s own observations of actual human form.

Leonardo believed that the working of the human body was analogous to the workings of the Universe and envisaged a picture chart of the human body through his various drawings as a “cosmografia del minor mondo” (meaning “the cosmography of the microcosm”).

“Macrocosm” and “Microcosm”  is an ancient Greek Neo-Platonic schema of seeing the same patterns reproduced in all levels of the cosmos, from the largest scale (macrocosm or universe level) down to the smallest scale, i.e. the sub-sub-atomic or even metaphysical level. In this system, the mid-point is the Man who summarises the cosmos (“Kosmos” in Greek stands for “order” and “world” – thus meaning “ordered world”).

Leonardo’s drawing is made in ink on paper and shows two superimposed positions of a man with his arms and legs apart and inscribed in a circle and square.

Interestingly, while working on his drawings and notes, Leonardo was given to marking on the margins the word “Dimmi” (meaning “Tell me”), whenever he tried out a new pen-nib, as if challenging the drawing to tell him something new every time.

 He adopted the same procedure on this drawing, till he came up with the final perfect answer to age-old the riddle.

To add to the mystery of his drawing, he wrote “On St. Andrew’s night, I concluded the squaring of the circle”. Further, inspired by Vitruvius, whom Leonardo regarded as his mentor when it came to perfect proportion, Leonardo wrote “If you decrease your height by one-fourteenth by spreading your legs and raising your arms so that your middle fingers are level with the top of your head, your navel will then be at the centre of a circle, with your outspread limbs touching the circumference”.

Leonardo’s “Vitruvian Man” drawing is an answer to an old geometric problem that had mathematicians vexed since Pythagoras’ times and a philosophical solution to the nature of man.  

The perfectly proportioned Vitruvian Man drawing by Leonardo with outstretched hands and feet, head erect and proud, encompasses the universe in harmony and freedom. Within the squared circle of the macrocosm, this figure demonstrates how man represents the totality of microcosm, just as Leonardo stretched himself to fulfil the very limits of his own destiny. He concluded “It is easy to make yourself universal”.

The human figure inside the circle and the square is a metaphysical statement – the Circle represents the infinite, the divine and the square represents the material mundane world.

The above is an image of the Vitruvian man as portrayed in the Tarot card “The World” from the “Da Vinci Enigma Tarot” in my Tarot library. This card is from the  22 "Major Arcana cards" or "Macrocosm Cards" in the Deck.
The “Major Arcana” Cards (or the “Macrocosm cards” in this deck), portray the “Fool’s”/initiate’s/querent’s journey through life, in which he/she takes the “leap of faith”, trusts and learns from using his/her own judgement and  from interactions with his parents, teachers and society at large. He learns to find a balance between the good and the bad experiences in life till he reaches a level of self-actualisation. At the end of his journey, he is finally “One with the World or the Universe”, having learnt of the collective wisdom of the Ages and from the mysteries of the Universe.

The Vitruvian Man has, therefore, been aptly placed as the final card of the Fool’s journey through life in the “Macrocosm cards”.

Commemorative coin:

This coin symbolises the fusion between electronics and mechanics, fundamentals in Robotics.

On the Obverse of the coin are shown the intricate illustrations of this cutting edge technology, featuring on the right hand side three gears/mechanical cogs which symbolises the cooperation between electronics and mechanics.  On the left to lower side, there is the digital binary code “0 and 1”, used to digitally record information. The binary coding, as well as, the mechanical cogs spill over from the Niobium core into the outer silver ring. In the centre of this face, a modified robotic version of Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian man, typifies the proportions of the ideal human body which are illustrated by a robot and not a human.

Below the Robotic Arms on the left side is also mentioned the denomination of the coin” 25 EURO”. On the upper periphery of the coin on the silver ring portion is mentioned the name of the country “REPUBLIK OSTERREICH” (meaning “Republic of Austria”) followed by the year of issue “2011”. On the lower periphery on the silver outer ring is mentioned the theme of the coin “ROBOTIK” (meaning “Robotics”).

The colour of the Niobium core is Mars-red.

On the Reverse of the coin which depicts the Martian landscape having mountain ranges, craters and rocks etc., together-with  a European Space Agency Mars robot exploring the red planet, having a backdrop of  a star-filled sky on the coin’s upper and left periphery and planet Earth on the right periphery engraved on the coin’s outer silver edge. Some portions of the roblt spill over onto the silver outer ring. Several numbers and criss-crossing lines depict system coordination.

On the bottom periphery is mentioned “MARS ROBOTER” (meaning “Mars Robotic Rover”).

The specifications of the coin are:

Face value: 25 Euros; Metallic composition: Outer ring: Silver (Ag) 900 – 9 gms, Niobium 998 – 6.50 gms; Diameter: 34 mm; Weight: 16.50 gms; Edge: smooth.

The mintage of this coin was limited to a maximum of 65000 pieces.

The following coins have been issued in this Series:

2003 – 700 years old Hall City in Tyrol or Tirol

2004 – 150 years Semmering Alpine Railway

2005 – 50 years of Television

2006 – The European Satellite Navigation

2007 – Austrian Aviators

2008 – Fascinating Light

2009 – Year of Astronomy

2010 – Renewable Energy Sources

2011 – Robotics

2012 – Bionics

2013 – Drilling tunnels

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