6 Glaring Differences Between Robots and Machines

We live in times when both machines and robots work with people to make our lives easier.

Humans have invented both robots and machines that can help with the various day to day repetitive tasks that are necessary yet sometimes not ideal for people to do.

You may be wondering, “aren’t robots machines?”

Well, they are. But in a sense, there are some differences between robots and machines.

The key idea to remember here is that while all robots are machines, not all machines are robots.

Before we go any further it is crucial to understand our two contenders for this difference analysis. From physics, a machine is a device that does work.

Machines can range from simple devices like a pulley to more complex ones that rely on electricity or internal combustion to work like engines.

On the other hand, a robot is, at its core, a machine but with some differences that set it apart from conventional machines.

Here, we will look at some of the differences between robots and machines.

These differences usually vary from their construction and working parameters to performance and ease of use.

Also Read: 3 Significant Differences Between Robots and Androids

List of Differences Between Robots and Machines

While there are plenty more differences, the following are the most glaring differences between robots and machines.

1. Autonomy

With autonomy, what we mean is that a robot is capable of performing its functions with little or no direct human influence.

For example, robots in an automobile assembly line can start and complete the assembly of vehicles autonomously.

They do not rely on humans to constantly monitor and control the process. All they need are a set of instructions that detail how the job should be done and they are ready to go.

A machine on the other hand, such as a crane, would require human interaction to work.

An operator would constantly need to be there to work the controls and make corrections when necessary.

A simple crane would not be able to perform its functions on its own, unlike a robot that is very much able to work independently from a human.

2. Sensory Input

differences between robots and machines

Asimo [Source: Honda]

Due to their autonomy, most robots usually need to have a form of information input system that can help guide them in doing their tasks.

Robots do this with the use of sensors that help them discern their environments and perform their jobs. From cameras that aid in machine vision to orientation and motion sensors, robots use sensory data to manage their performance.

Take, for example, the humanoid robot ASIMO by Honda.

This advanced robot is can sense people and other objects in its immediate environment by making use of an array of auditory and visual sensors that are capable of voice and face recognition.

This allows the robot to respond to many situations including human behavior. The robot is also able to detect potential collisions and avoid them.

An ordinary machine, on the other hand, does not make use of sensory data to adapt to its environment and this makes it necessary to have an operator around to account for the dynamics of the operating environment.

Also Read: 8 Reasons Why Robots are Important Today

3. Design and Development

Curiosity Rover


Robots are mostly designed to operate autonomously for certain periods. To achieve this, there’s the need for microcontrollers that process the instructions meant to direct the robots on how to perform their duties.

The work that goes into the design of a robot is more intense than the work needed for the design of a simple machine.

Robots need to be more precise with the work they do whereas regular machines are characterized by a degree of rigidity in their functions.

Not only do robots require more in terms of research and development for their functionality, but they also need to be tested intensely to ensure that they match the performance parameters intended for them.

Machines on the other hand generally need to show that they can be operated in the conditions needed and produce the intended outcome.

4. Software

Ultimately, the software is one part that plays a huge role in distinguishing between a robot and a regular machine.

Most ordinary machines have comparably simpler software as compared to robots or no software at all.

One reason may be because a machine is intended to be operated by a human most of the time while a robot is intended to run automatically when needed.

Being that a robot needs to be programmed and most machines do not, it is vital to show that software plays the role of the major difference between a robot and a machine.

At the very core of the subject, a robot is a piece of hardware just like any other machine.

But to make it operate on its own, the software bit needs to be added. The software is in many ways complex as it needs to assimilate inputs and outputs based on certain pre-programmed transfer functions to work optimally.

We may even be biased to say that the software almost helps the robot to “think”.

Also Read: Best Desktops for Programming

5. Performing changing tasks

A robot can perform tasks that have been pre-programmed for it. The same can be said for machines as well to a certain degree. However, a robot can perform its tasks with far more efficiency than a machine can.

This can be seen when the tasks to be performed are changed. A robot can be programmed to perform different tasks according to the user’s needs while a machine can only do one specified job.

For example, a drill can only be used for drilling and when an operator needs to pick up material from a site, they would need a different machine because the drill won’t be able to meet these demands.

However, a robot that is used in an industry can be configured with different sets of attachments and be programmed to perform different tasks whenever the need arises.

This kind of versatility makes robots essential for the industry since the same piece of hardware can be instructed to do different jobs only by changing its operating system.

6. Use of Artificial Intelligence

The Field of artificial intelligence has been marrying a lot into the field of robotics for a while now.

Robots can be developed to rely on artificial intelligence as part of their programming and this will affect their behavior.

With artificial intelligence, a robot can be capable of learning and adapting to different conditions more flexibly than before.

Robotics and artificial intelligence can interact through software.


Sophie [Source: Hanson Robotics]

While a regular machine is not able to leverage the power of artificial intelligence, we have seen the latter being used by companies such as Hanson Robotics to create artificially intelligent robots that in a way mimic human behavior.

As discussed, ordinary machines tend to rely on direct control by a human to perform their functions. As such, they are not able to directly tap into the power of AI for automation just yet.

Also Read: Negative Effects of Artificial Intelligence


Here we looked at the fundamental differences between robots and machines.

Basically, robots tend to be much “smarter” than regular machines because they can perform their tasks autonomously.

They require little to no human interaction such as the Mars Rover and they can be programmed to perform a wide array of tasks. Indeed, these are subtle differences between a robot and a machine.

However, taken at a grand scale, particularly where the performance of tasks is a factor, a robot is seen as the more versatile candidate.

It is a fact that robots are essentially machines. However, looking at them from a certain perspective exposes certain traits as discussed above that regular machines just don’t possess.