Webopedia defines robotics as: The field of computer science and engineering concerned with creating robots, devices that can move and react to sensory input. Robotics is one branch of artificial intelligence.
Since several years ago when an user hears the term Robotics inmediatly thinks in widely recognized labs located in developed countries, huge technological corporations, large universities with dozens of years of experience, countries like Japan or USA, book writers as Isaac Asimov, movies like star wars, etc..
However if we go deeper on this terms you will face problems trying to find a relationship to any south american country, university, industry or even book writers.
This situation is rapidly changing, several institutions located on this side of the map are working on robotics and advanced IA giving them the opportunity to shine and show what scientifics and professionals of these side of the world are capable to do.
One of these efforts and achievements on robotics was one robot developed by the department of Electrical Engineering of Universidad de Chile and Codelco corporation. The joint effort of these two entities pursue the construction of an automated front loader that requires no human intervention to operate in underground mines. This project started in 1993 and it was finished in 1999, right now Chile is an important player in robotic technology worldwide and Chilean students participates on international contests on robotics and AI.
Many other latin countries made important advances in robotic technologies and now they have national robotics contests sponsored by universities, public institutions and private companies, just check this website of Universidad Nacional from Colombia and note how many contests and robot-related links are: http://www.ceimtun.unal.edu.co/enlaces.html
Argentina is another key player on robotics, this country has a series of well developed labs and prepared engineers, these labs produces robots for a wide range of applications in many different fields; check out this website for an example: http://www.secyt.unc.edu.ar/Nuevo/portada_contenido190.php?idNota=190. This website shows progress on one particular field of robotics: Animatronics.
Venezuela just started a program of robotic surgery using Da Vinci, a robotic surgery system implemented by Hospital Universitario de Caracas (Caracas Universitary Hospital), and this is just one of the many robotics initiatives in this country.
Also there are private groups of engineers and robot-fans working with low or no publicity seeking particular goals, see for example: www.hydr0lab.com; the list of robotic efforts in south america continues and it will require several post to mention all of them.
It is clear that engineers and scientifics of this side of the world are showing remarkable improvements on the field of robotics and AI putting them side to side to engineers all around the world which in most cases have several years researching in this field and it was this experience in many cases the basis for these improvements.
The field of robotics is no longer exclusive of specific and highly industrialized countries, now several other "non-developed" countries around the world are becoming key players in this area and south american countries are among them.
What are the benefits of this field of AI for these countries?, several, to mention one of them, software used to allow the robot identify and avoid obstacles can be used with little modifications in the field of industrial image recognition, thus giving the opportunity to the developers of the software to create their own company or serve as highly specialized employees.
Robots developed in south america (as in many other countries) are intented to solve specific problems in specific industries or to solve common community problems with an innovative approach.