The term robotics refers to the science of designing, building, and using robots for a set of tasks. A relatively young field, Robotics draws from many fields of engineering, incluiding mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, computer science, and mathematics.
The most popular applications of robotics is in manufacturing. While Industrial robots were first marketed in 1960, it has only been recently that consumer robotic products have appeared on the market. Among the most popular are the Sony's Aibo, Wowee's Robosapien, Roboraptor, and Robosapien V2, and the as-yet un-released Pleo. Robots are also used to great effect in industrial manufacturing plants for automated tasks.
"Robotic surgery" is a man-in-the-loop application, where the robotic controllers smooth out tremor in human hands, and then scale human-scale motions to actions in microsurgery. Another man-in-the-loop application involves unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and precision-guided munitions (PGM). Psychologically interesting human stress can come from a PGM with television guidance, where the operator has the sense of "crashing and burning" into the target. All of these are telepresence applications.
Unusually, the driving force for much development in robotics may be due the efforts of science fiction authors. Authors such as Asimov essentially defined the popular perception of a robot, and their works may have been the inspiration for the current genereation of roboticists. Recently, robots have appeared in mainstream movies such as I, Robot, Bicentennial Man, and Artificial Intelligence.
There are a lot of different languages to program in robotics. To avoid having to learn a lot of different programming languages, an initiative has been taken to provide universal platforms, like Urbi or Microsoft Robotics Suite. A move has also been taken toward open source platforms so that they are more widely used and hobbyists can program at will without having to pay.