Most professional service robots are semi-autonomous or fully autonomous robots that have some mobility and interact with people, usually in a retail, hospitality, healthcare, warehouse or fulfillment setting

What are Service Robots?

Len Calderone for | RoboticsTomorrow

There are many jobs that are dirty, dull, or dangerous. These are ideal jobs for service robots. These robots are autonomously operated by an internal control system with the option to manually override the operation. The International Organization for Standardization defines a “service robot” as a robot “that performs useful tasks for humans.”

Professional service robots are different from industrialized robots. They are completely different in form and function. Industrial robots are used within the manufacturing industry, while professional service robots automate menial, dangerous, time-consuming, or repetitive tasks, thereby releasing human workers to accomplish more intellectual functions.

Most professional service robots are semi-autonomous or fully autonomous robots that have some mobility and interact with people, usually in a retail, hospitality, healthcare, warehouse or fulfillment setting, while others are used in more demanding settings, such as in space and defense, agricultural applications, and police work

By 2021, the professional service robotic market is predicted to reach $37 Billion. Businesses want to automate certain processes for safety, efficiency and productivity. Safety is an important consideration because robots can handle dangerous jobs while humans focus on intellectual tasks in dangerous situations. Professional service robots can go where human workers would be in danger.

Improving efficiency is another concern for businesses that use professional service robots. Inspection robots and cleaning robots have very little downtime, while a high volume of products can be transported by logistical robots, reducing the cost of labor.

Professional service robots participate in productivity in some form leading to major improvements in productivity in their specialty field. The productivity advantages of these service robots help businesses validate the outlay in professional service robots.

As the demand increases, agriculture robots will become more incorporated into every facet of agricultural activity. Using advanced sensors, these service robots will spray for weed control, harvest crops, plant seeds, and prune existing plants and trees.

Retail service robots can spot errors on shelf labels, avoiding ringing up a price that is different than what the shelf tag showed. Robots travel through the aisles, using cameras to identify problems with the shelf labels. They then alert store employees when they find errors.

In comparison with previous generations, millennials put a higher value on convenience and don’t mind trading human interactions for faster, automated experiences. Therefore, some retailers are using robots that handle the roles that humans usually fill.

Nestlé has used a humanoid robot, called Pepper, in numerous Japanese department stores to sell coffee makers. Pepper understands about 80% of the conversations and uses the information it learns to help customers.

Customers can go to a Robofusion kiosk and order ice cream. After customers choose what they want using a touchscreen, robotic dispensers serve the frozen treat with toppings and no human worker is in sight.

Companies like Cobalt and Knightscope are leasing out security robots. These devices are the size of a person and they travel around corporate offices, equipped with heat sensors, facial detection and employee badge scanners. The robots rove autonomously, watching for signs of trouble, like an unauthorized person entering the building.

These robots aren’t designed to use force against an intruder, nor can they resolve an escalating argument. They also are not able to climb stairs or operate elevators.

Medical robots are professional service robots that are used in and out of hospital settings to improve the level of patient care. These robots reduce the workload of the medical staff, which allows them to spend more time caring directly for patients.

Medical service robots include telepresence robots for remote caregiving, disinfectant robots to reduce hospital acquired infections, robots that can accurately and efficiently draw blood, and robotic exoskeletons that provide external support and muscle training for rehabilitation. Mobile medical robots are used for the delivery of medication and other sensitive materials in a hospital. There are chat bots that diagnose patients via text message, using artificial intelligence.

Cleaning robots automate routine, dangerous or dirty work with efficiency. Their chores could include disinfecting an area or removing toxic paint. Industrial cleaning robots are used in many different ways, such as glass cleaning for large buildings, or mopping, vacuuming and cleaning of industrial sites. There are wall climbing robots for boiler wall cleaning, or they can clean, polish and remove paint in vessels and tanks.

Ecovacs’ WINBOT 950 is the latest in window-cleaning. With a smart drive cleaning system, it has the ability to maneuver into corners. This robot is the perfect window cleaning companion that does away with ladders. It is capable of cleaning different types of windows thoroughly and safely.

The construction industry is a historically labor-intensive industry with little to no automation, but this is beginning to change in a big way. Construction robots are still in their early stages. New uses of construction robots include the 3D printing of large structures using a robotic arm and additive manufacturing techniques. There are robots for bricklaying, and climbing robots for use in the construction of tall structures. Wearable exoskeletons are used to assist workers performing hard repetitious tasks.

Now, bulldozers, excavators and other construction vehicles operate themselves. Small bulldozers move mounds of earth without a human operator. Construction Robotics developed a bricklaying robot known as SAM (Semi-Automated Mason), a $400,000 machine, which can lay about 3,000 bricks in an eight-hour shift. That is several times more than a mason can do working by hand.

Logistics service robots are mobile automated guided vehicles in warehouses and storage facilities to transport goods. These robots follow predefined pathways, moving products for shipping and storage around the clock. They play an important role in reduction of the cost of logistics.

Robotic arms that sort items from bins or from assembly lines are also logistic service robots, along with those that transport goods outdoors such as in agriculture; and even mobile robots in retail that count shelf inventory in real-time and treat the store like a mini-warehouse.  

Fetch Robotics delivers the market’s only cloud-driven Autonomous Mobile Robot (AMR), which is the answer to material handling and data collection for warehousing and intralogistics environments. Fetch Robotics’ AMRs save money and improve efficiency, and productivity.

As the technology expands, professional service robots will be a common occurrence, interacting with customers or dealing with dangerous tasks. They are getting ready to take over an assortment of responsibilities outside of manufacturing.


The content & opinions in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of RoboticsTomorrow

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