A service robot can be described as an automated machine that assists humans in various tasks, freeing up their time for more valuable work. Defined by the International Organisation for Standardisation, a service robot is one “that performs useful tasks for humans or equipment excluding industrial automation applications.” These robots possess a certain level of autonomy, either partially or fully, enabling them to operate effectively in a range of settings.
Various applications across numerous industries utilise service robots to improve their efficiency and efficacy. In the retail sector, for example, these robots enhance and personalise customer experience, as well as optimising in-store operations.
A key difference between service robots and industrial robots is their environment: while the latter operates in highly standardised manufacturing processes, service robots are often placed in more diverse and complex environments, requiring greater adaptability.
The rapid advancement of technology has led to the continuous development and integration of service robots into our daily lives. As a result, these versatile machines have become indispensable in various fields, ranging from healthcare to hospitality, benefiting individuals and businesses alike.
Definition and Purpose
A service robot is a type of robot designed to perform useful tasks for humans or equipment, excluding industrial automation applications. They operate with a degree of autonomy and can perform tasks without human intervention. Service robots are meant to assist human employees in their daily tasks, allowing them to focus on the most valuable customer- and patient-centric work.
Service robots perform a wide range of functions in various sectors, including but not limited to:
- Retail: Enhancing and personalising the customer experience, as well as improving in-store operations.
- Healthcare: Assisting healthcare professionals with tasks such as patient monitoring, medication distribution, and sanitisation.
- Hospitality: Handling tasks at hotels and restaurants, such as carrying luggage, delivering room service, and cleaning.
- Automation of daily tasks: Assisting with household chores, like cleaning floors, mowing lawns, or cooking.
By providing these diverse functions, service robots help to streamline processes, improve efficiency, and reduce errors in these sectors.
There are several primary goals associated with the development and use of service robots:
- Enhancing productivity: By taking on repetitive or time-consuming tasks, service robots enable humans to focus on more valuable activities.
- Improving the human experience: Service robots can provide support and assistance to improve the quality of life for elderly, disabled, or other individuals requiring special care.
- Reducing costs: In many cases, service robots can replace human labour, leading to significant cost savings for businesses.
- Ensuring safety: Service robots can perform tasks in hazardous environments, reducing the risk of injury or accidents for human workers.
In summary, service robots offer numerous functions and primary goals that benefit both individuals and businesses in a variety of sectors. These versatile devices help improve productivity, enhance the human experience, and ensure safety, all while reducing costs and increasing efficiency.
Types of Service Robots
Service robots assist humans in various tasks and can be found in a range of industries. These robots enhance our lives and improve efficiency in businesses. In this section, we cover three main types of service robots: industrial, professional, and personal.
Industrial service robots are designed to perform tasks in manufacturing and production environments. They can carry out simple tasks, such as examining welding, or more complex and harsh-environment tasks, like aiding in the dismantling of nuclear power stations. Common applications for industrial service robots include:
- Assembly: Fast and precise automated work in production lines
- Inspection: Quality control and accurate detection of faults
- Material handling: Efficient movement and storage of materials
- Painting: Consistent and precise coverage in painting processes
Professional service robots are utilised for commercial tasks and are usually operated by a trained operator. These robots can be found in various settings such as public places, offices, and hospitals. Some examples of professional service robots include:
- Cleaning robots: Maintaining cleanliness in public areas and commercial spaces
- Delivery robots: Transporting items in offices or hospitals
- Fire-fighting robots: Assisting in tackling fires and rescuing people
- Rehabilitation robots: Assisting in the recovery and therapy of patients
- Surgery robots: Aiding surgeons during medical procedures
Personal service robots are designed for use in household chores and domestic tasks. They are often simplistic in design and may have full or partial autonomy. Popular personal service robots include:
- Vacuum cleaners: Autonomous cleaning of floors and carpets
- Lawn mowers: Maintenance of gardens and outdoor spaces
- Companion robots: Providing company and interaction for users
- Assistive robots: Aiding elderly or disabled individuals with daily tasks
Components and Technologies
Service robots are designed to assist humans in various tasks, from mundane chores to complex activities in hazardous environments. They employ a range of components and technologies to carry out these tasks effectively. This section will discuss the key components of service robots, including sensors, actuators, and control systems.
Sensors are essential for service robots to perceive their surroundings and collect data. Various types of sensors enable robots to detect objects, measure distances, identify colours, and more. Commonly used sensors include:
- Cameras: Visual sensors that capture images, enabling the robot to recognise and analyse its environment.
- Lidar: Uses lasers to measure distances and create a three-dimensional map of the surroundings.
- Ultrasonic sensors: Emit high-frequency sound waves and measure the time taken for the waves to bounce off nearby objects, providing distance measurements.
- Infrared sensors: Use infrared light to detect the presence of objects or measure temperature.
Actuators convert energy into motion, allowing the robot to perform specific tasks. They are essential components in robotic arms, grippers and wheels. Actuators used in service robots commonly include:
- Electric motors: Convert electrical energy into mechanical motion, powering robotic wheels and manipulators.
- Hydraulic actuators: Use pressurised fluid to generate high levels of force, suitable for heavy-duty tasks.
- Pneumatic actuators: Utilise compressed air to generate motion, offer rapid response times and are ideal for lightweight applications.
Control systems regulate the behaviour and actions of a service robot. They process the data gathered by sensors, plan movements and tasks, and then coordinate the actuators to execute those tasks. Key elements of a control system include:
- Microcontrollers: Small computers that manage and control the robot’s actions based on input from sensors and programmed instructions.
- Operating system: Provides the software framework for all the robot’s functions, facilitating communication between hardware and software components.
- Path planning algorithms: Calculate the optimal route to a destination, taking into account obstacles or restrictions.
- Feedback control loops: Monitor the robot’s performance continuously, making adjustments to actuators based on sensor feedback to maintain desired actions.
By combining these components and technologies, service robots can efficiently execute a wide range of tasks, enhancing human productivity and safety.
Service robots are increasingly being used in various sectors to assist humans with tasks that may be dirty, dull, distant, dangerous, or repetitive. They are typically autonomous but can also be operated using built-in control systems or manual override options. Here are some real-world applications of service robots in different sectors:
Service robots play a crucial role in healthcare settings. They assist with tasks such as wayfinding or answering questions to enhance patient experiences. They can transport supplies, medication, and samples between departments, reducing human contact and ensuring a sterile environment. Additionally, service robots can perform disinfecting tasks, which significantly reduce the risk of infections in healthcare settings.
In the logistics sector, service robots are used to improve efficiency in inventory management, carrying, and transportation tasks. They can autonomously navigate in warehouses and factories to collect items, load and unload goods, or transport raw materials. Service robots are also being adopted in last-mile delivery, helping to reduce delivery times and enhance customer satisfaction.
Service robots play a vital role in the hospitality industry, particularly in hotels, restaurants, and other customer-facing businesses. They can perform tasks ranging from greeting guests, providing information, and carrying luggage to delivering room service and managing inventory. By automating these tasks, service robots enhance customer service, reduce waiting times, and improve overall guest experiences.
In agriculture, service robots are aiding farmers in labour-intensive tasks such as planting, weeding, and harvesting. They are equipped with sensors and cameras to detect and treat specific areas in the fields, thereby increasing efficiency and reducing the usage of chemicals. Moreover, service robots are used in livestock management for tasks like feeding, cleaning, and monitoring animal health, ultimately increasing productivity and sustainability in the agricultural sector.
Service robots have been enhancing various industries and their applications are continuously expanding. Due to advances in technologies, these robots are likely to become more capable and efficient in the future. For instance, improvements in artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms can enable service robots to make more informed decisions, respond to changing environments, and execute tasks with higher precision.
Additionally, developments in sensor technology and computer vision can aid service robots in better understanding their surroundings, allowing them to navigate complex environments and adapt to various situations.
The demand for service robots is expected to grow significantly in the coming years, as more businesses and industries recognise their potential benefits. According to the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), sales of service robots are forecasted to grow between 20 and 25% by 2020. This increase could be partly due to the growing desire for automation, efficiency, and cost savings across various sectors, such as agriculture, surgery, logistics, and retail.
The introduction of more advanced and versatile service robots could further accelerate market growth, as these innovations have the potential to address the current limitations and expand their range of applications.
Service robots are system-based autonomous and adaptable interfaces designed to interact, communicate, and deliver services to an organisation’s customers [^4^]. These robots can be utilised for a variety of tasks, including wayfinding, answering questions, and improving customer or patient experiences. A service robot’s ability to autonomously operate through an inbuilt control system makes them a valuable and efficient addition to various industries.
The benefits of service robots are numerous, as they not only enhance user experiences but also free up human resources by performing tasks that would otherwise require manual labour. This, in turn, increases overall efficiency within an organisation and allows employees to focus on more complex tasks that demand their expertise.
The versatility of service robots holds great potential for the future, as advancements in technology enable them to take on increasingly diverse responsibilities. By embracing the potential of service robots and integrating them into daily operations, businesses and individuals alike can enjoy the numerous advantages they offer for providing efficient and effective services.
However, it is essential to remember that the implementation of service robots requires careful consideration, including the establishment of clear boundaries between human and robot collaboration, as well as proper training and supervision. By striking the right balance, service robots can become a valuable complement to human labour and contribute to a more streamlined and productive work environment.