Robot vs. Android vs. Cyborg vs. Humanoid vs. Bionic

Here’s everything about the differences between a robot, android, cyborg, humanoid, and bionic including drones:

A robot is a machine that can carry out a task on its own.

Androids and humanoids are robots that are designed after the human form.

Drones are similar to robots, but they require human input for controls.

Cyborgs and bionics are living things with robotic parts, but cyborgs control the robotics mentally.

So if you want to learn all about how robots, androids, cyborgs, humanoids, and bionics including drones differ, then you’re in the right place.

Keep reading!

Robot vs. Android vs. Cyborg vs. Humanoid vs. Bionic (Drone)

How Can We Compare Robot vs. Android vs. Cyborg vs. Humanoid vs. Bionic? (2 Things)

young female scientist holding plastic hand at robotics laboratory

Ok. We’re looking at five different things, and they’re all at least a little related.

All of these terms come up in science fiction for sure.

What you might not know is that there are real-life versions of all of these things too.

We’re living in a pretty advanced age, after all.

The problem is that a lot of different people have used these terms, and they don’t all agree on the definition.

So, how do we deal with that?

We could go to Webster or Oxford and pick out dictionary definitions, but that’s not always a clean solution.

It might not really help us understand what people usually mean when they use these terms.

So, I took a different approach.

I researched each term pretty thoroughly.

In a bit, I’m going to give you a clear definition of each idea, but before that, I want to explain the research and comparisons I used to come up with those definitions.

#1 Real Technology

female engineer control  an arm robot with remote

Basically, I split everything into two categories.

The first category looks only at real technology.

What are examples of each of these things that exist in the world right now?

I’ll be showing you plenty, but the idea is that I wanted to ground everything. 

In the world of science fiction, things can get pretty out there, and is that really useful?

So, every definition that you’ll see today can be applied to real technology, as it exists right now.

That’s important.

#2 Popular Fiction

cinematic female android

But, most of these terms were actually invented long before real technology caught up to them.

The idea of an android has been around longer than actual robotics.

So, if we’re going to do these terms justice, we also have to take their origins into account.

So, each definition will also be able to apply to the majority of mainstream science fiction.

Science fiction is broad, so you’ll probably find uses of the terms that don’t agree with my definitions if you look hard enough.

But, in the vast majority of cases, these definitions also work for science fiction.

What Is a Robot?

male and female technicians monitoring robot controller system for automated steel welding

I’m starting with the most complicated term in the bunch.

On the surface, a robot is a simple idea, but because of modern advancements in technology and the absolutely insurmountable amount of science fiction in the world, the term actually has a lot of meanings.

According to Wikipedia, a robot is “a machine—especially one programmable by a computer—capable of carrying out a complex series of actions automatically.”

That’s a pretty useful definition, and it’s entirely practical.

This definition might not work in all science fiction universes, but for real-world applications, it’s a good place to start.

A robot is a bit of technology that can complete a task without direct human control or oversight.

Keep in mind that this can include both physical and virtual tasks.

A robot might weld car parts on an assembly line, but it could also be a bit of code that reads websites for Google.

It’s a large umbrella term, and you’ll find that many of the other terms we’re discussing today could be classified as robots.

The Difference Between Robotics and a Robot

For the sake of this article, I’m going to make up my own definition and use it going forward.

I’m going to differentiate between a robot and the idea of robotics.

Robotics can apply to any piece of technology that could be used as part of a robot.

A robot is something that can fully carry out a task.

So, the robotic arm that is welding things on the assembly line is not a full robot.

It also needs software to control it and possible other parts.

But, you could take that same robotic arm to your garage sell and label it as “robotics.”

At least, that would work with this current definition.

The thing I really want to emphasize is that I might describe some things as “robotic” even when it isn’t describing a fully functioning robot.

Everyone on the same page?

I’m glad we could all clear that up.

What Is an Android?

Android robot worker in a call center

Moving on, an android is a type of robot.

If we stick with Wikipedia definitions, then an android is “a humanoid robot or other artificial beings often made from a flesh-like material.”

While this is a reasonable starting point, if you look at enough science fiction (and androids are still primarily fictional), then you’ll find that androids aren’t always made from “flesh-like” materials.

I think a better definition would be that an android is a robot that mimics human imagery as closely as possible.

So, a real-world android today would still obviously be a machine.

You’d be able to tell at a glance.

But, in a more technologically advanced society, an android would look more and more like a human. 

On top of this, androids are theoretically designed to carry out human tasks.

A perfect android would be able to do anything a human can do. 

This description fits a broader idea of an android, and we’ll still be able to clearly distinguish androids from the other technological terms that we’re exploring today.

What Is a Cyborg?

an attractive cyborg girl

Next up is the cyborg.

This one is pretty interesting.

On the most basic level, a cyborg is where you combine robotics with a living organism.

If someone at your garage sale buys your robotic arm and then attaches it to themselves, that might constitute a cyborg.

But, we need to be a little more specific.

If we’re going to distinguish cyborgs from bionics, then there’s an extra criterion to consider.

A cyborg is a living organism with at least one robotic part, and that robotic part is controlled directly by the cyborg’s brain.

In real-world terms, this is bleeding-edge technology.

Technically, there are people with prosthetics, alive today, who would fit this definition of cyborg.

But, it’s certainly not mainstream technology yet. 

Electromyography

I actually want to spend a little more time on modern, real-world cyborgs.

There’s an emerging technology known as electromyography.

This technology uses sensors that can actually pick up nerve signals that are sent from your brain to other parts of your body.

An example might help here.

Let’s say an amputee is missing their left hand.

There are now real, working prosthetics that can replace the missing hand, and these prosthetics have functional fingers that can very closely mimic real, human fingers.

In fact, there are cases where the prosthetics are superior to human hands.

The way these work is that the prosthetic has sensors that pick up electrochemical signals in your body (which is how your brain tells the rest of your body what to do).

As a result, the prosthetic can learn the language of your brain, and you can then control the hand just by thinking about what you want to do.

It’s straight-up cyborg technology.

And, in one of the more fascinating cases, these prosthetics can do amazing things. 

There is a drummer who, with his prosthetic, can drum faster and better than any human in the world.

What Is a Humanoid?

happy man giving high five to a humanoid robot at workplace

And, that brings us to humanoids.

Humanoids are going to be most similar to androids, but there is a clear distinction.

A humanoid is a full robot (there is no organic, living thing as part of the humanoid).

It’s also modeled after basic human anatomy.

A humanoid will typically stand on two legs and have a rough human shape.

How is this different from an android?

Well, a humanoid isn’t trying to look like a human.

Instead, it takes after the general human form for practical purposes.

If you wanted a robot that can walk around rather than roll on wheels, you might design it with human-like legs.

That would make it humanoid in at least some respects, but it’s certainly not supposed to pass as human on any level.

A really good example of this would be the ED-209 from RoboCop.

Sure, it’s fictional, but it shows why you might put humanoid design elements into a robot that is not remotely an android.

What Is a Bionic?

Happy handicapped young woman with artificial bionic hand sitting by the window with laptop

Our last definition is the bionic.

This is the least “robot-like” of all of the terms.

A bionic is a person (although animals might technically qualify too) who has robotics attached to their body somewhere.

A good example of this would be someone with a robotic prosthetic.

The prosthetic has robotic capabilities, but they aren’t controlled directly by the brain.

Instead, they might respond to physical movements in order to operate.

Bionics don’t have to be prosthetic, either.

If you just took the arm from an Iron Man suit and used it to complete a task, that would more or less qualify as a bionic as well.

So, to be really, perfectly clear about this, bionics are a lot like cyborgs, but the way the robotics are controlled is different.

That’s the key here.

Drone

Drones add another wrinkle to the whole idea.

Using our technical definition, a drone would not be classified as a robotic, but it could be made using robotic parts.

The idea is that a drone is a device that a human can control or pilot remotely.

In the real world, drones are often called unmanned vehicles.

Aerial drones are commonly used in the military, and you can even buy your own drone off of Amazon.

They are common, and even in science fiction, they follow a similar idea.

They are unmanned, but they are not autonomous.

That’s the key.

What Are the Key Differences in Robot vs. Android vs. Cyborg vs. Humanoid vs. Bionic? (3 Categories)

Engineer working on laptop near robotic arms

With those definitions, you can probably distinguish between the different aspects of robots and robotics, but if you want to really hone in on the key differences, I’ll lay them out in greater detail.

#1 The Amount of Robotics

robot hand touching a human hand

This is the first major check.

How much of the thing is machine, and how much of it is human?

If a human has to control it, then it’s not really a robot.

This means that airplanes and cars are not robots.

Then again, if the car is entirely self-driving, it becomes a robot at that point.

Additionally, if the “robot” in question has a mix of biology and technology, then it’s probably a cyborg or a bionic.

It all boils down to how much of everything is covered by the robotic elements.

If there are only robotic elements and not human involvement (at least for regular operations), then it is in fact a full robot, and the android and humanoid subcategories might apply.

If it has a human element, then it’s not a full robot.

It’s as simple as that.

#2 The Shape and Design of the Robotics

humanoid robots working in a medical laboratory

When it is a full robot, then the distinctions all boil down to the aesthetic design.

If it’s shaped more or less like a human being, then it’s a humanoid.

If it actually looks a lot like a person, then it’s an android.

Again, the android part is a little harder to pin down, since there’s nothing even close to being a true android in the world right now.

That really has more to do with intent than anything else.

The animatronics at Disneyland might be designed to resemble real people, and in that case, they’re at least intended to be androids.

How well they succeed is another question, but this can help really think about the differences between androids and humanoids.

A humanoid simply has human-like parts because it makes sense for the kind of work the robot is supposed to do.

An android is supposed to inspire thoughts and feelings inside of you that make you see it as more human than other robots.

#3 The Application and Control of Robotics

motivated female worker with robot arm and hand working on the computer

Lastly, the application and control of the robotics can help distinguish these different categories.

This mostly applies to cyborgs and bionics.

If the robotics are directly controlled by a human brain, then they are cyborg robotics.

If they require some other kind of control, then they are bionic.

One thing to realize is that artificial intelligence can be present in both forms.

You could have bionic legs that use advanced algorithms to help a person balance and stabilize while walking or running.

That means that the robotics help the bionics do their job, but they don’t rely on direct signals from the user’s brain in order to function.

In the meantime, there are fictional cybernetics where a person can control intricate aspects of their robotic parts with a mere thought.

In the real world, cyborg robotics almost entirely depend on electromyography.

Control also matters when thinking about drones.

If you have to remotely control it in order for it to work, it’s a drone and not a true robot.