The word robot comes from both the Czech and the Slovak robota. It first appeared in the 1921 science-fiction play R.U.R. by Karel Čapek after having been suggested to him by his brother Josef". The first robot in literature could arguable be Tik-Tok in Ozma of Oz, L. Frank Baum's third book in the famous Wizard of Oz series. Published in 1907, the book had an artificial wind-up man that was found and reactivated by the protagonist.
Merriam-Webster describes a robot as a "machine that looks like a human being and performs various complex acts (as walking or talking) of a human being", or a "device that automatically performs complicated often repetitive tasks", or a "mechanism guided by automatic controls". Unfortunately, this definition is colored by the humanistic idea of a robot instead of the actual machine and functions of everyday robots. Robots in everyday life are more specialized to their functions. For instance, the bots that Google uses to index webpages have no definite shape or form, but they preform an important and invisible function for almost everyone who has ever used a computer.
We are surrounded by robots every day, yet many of them we never see. Many robots are still being made that resemble humans, but all of these human shaped robots, better known as androids, incite an uncanny valley in humans. In addition, human-shaped robots cannot do all of the things humans can do, because they don't have the years of evolution and idiosyncrasies developed by the species.
The best robots are those that are shaped to preform a single function very well. The Roomba vacuum, cleaner, for instance, is shaped to preform the task of vacuuming. An entire human-shaped robot is not required to do the task, and the vacuum itself is easy to fix, cheap to purchase, and pleasant to use. Curiously enough, the Roomba vacuum is shaped like the ancient trilobite, a prehistoric filter feeder creature. When one looks at some of the most successful technologies and robots, many elements of nature can be seen. Helicopters resemble dragonflies, airplanes resemble virus, and so on. Nature is a very efficient machine.