An android is a robot designed to look or behave like a human being. The resemblance to humans may be relatively mild or scrupulously life-like in appearance. Although androids have long been the province of science fiction, modern technology has allowed the development of some android robots for a variety of functions.
In terms of definition, an android differs from robots and cyborgs in both form and function. A cyborg is a human being with robotic body parts or mental components, typically found in science-fiction literature and film. Conversely, a robot is any guided machine that can perform tasks. Androids are not actually human, but are physically designed to resemble humans to some degree while having the controllable functions of a robot.
Androids are a relatively old concept, although there is little agreement about the first record of the idea. In the 15th century, Leonardo Da Vinci designed and possibly built a robot knight that could move its arms and legs. Some android enthusiasts reference an earlier mention of androids, dating back to the 13th century. Regardless of the origin, the concept of a human-like artificial intelligence has sparked the imaginations of inventors and fiction writers for several centuries.
Famous fictional androids are quite varied in appearance and purpose. One common theme in science fiction is the idea of an android and overthrowing programming for good or ill. Famous fictional androids include Tik-Tok, from Frank Baum's Oz books, Robby the Robot, from the classic sci-fi film Forbidden Planet, and the character of Data from the television series Star Trek: The Next Generation.
As computer and electronic technology has caught up with rampant imagination, some modern inventors have created androids for a wide range of purposes. Walt Disney famously used animatronic androids to provide the rides at Disney parks with lifelike characters. In the 21st century, Japanese and South Korean robotics companies have emerged at the forefront of android development, creating human-like robots that can walk, smile, speak, and even sing.
Modern technology has allowed the combination of robotics and computer technology to create startlingly lifelike androids. Silicone skin, real hair, and complex and silent hydraulic are utilized to give the illusion of natural muscle movement, appearance, and even breathing. Some companies have ambitiously suggested that androids will soon be available commercially for a wide range of purposes, though laws and guidelines have yet to be established regarding the commercial application of this rapidly improving area of developing technology.