For Service Robots
by MICHAEL SOMBY
What is special about service robotics as
compared to industrial robotics? Imagine it
gets dark in the living room and you turn on
the light. For most industrial robots, such a change in the
illumination pattern would be a catastrophic event. Those
robots are designed to work in closely controlled industrial
settings. Their computer vision systems are not able to cope
with such changes in the illumination without reconfiguration
or reprogramming. On the other hand, interacting with the
dynamic and changing world is a survival requirement for
most service robots.
New pieces of furniture, random obstacles, walking
people, missing or unknown objects, unprofessional users,
children, pets, cars on the road — those features comprise
the dynamic environment where a service robot needs to
be able to operate. Besides that, most service robots are
mobile and work in close proximity to people.
The unique requirements of service robotics triggered
the creation of an industry which develops new technology
specifically designed for service robotics applications.
This article reviews several of the software products
available on the market for this particular industry.
Building a robot which makes up rooms, cleans houses,
or serves breakfast is the dream of every service roboticist.
A company which delivers such a product at a reasonable
price will most likely make huge sales.
The military looks for robots which can be used to fight
wars; farmers would love robots to grow crops. Nearly every
industry has a use for service robots. Examples include:
• Robotic Elder care
• Automatic Health Scanning and Monitoring (healthcare)
• Robotic Surgery (healthcare)
• Robotic Delivery (hotels, hospitals, restaurants, offices)
• Robotic Crop Picking (agriculture)
• Unmanned Convoys (defense)
• Bomb Disposal (defense)
• Security, Patrols
• Entertainment (home, museums, parks)
• Fire Fighting
There are so many potential applications, and the good
news is that the technology is getting there.
Service Robots of Today
Although service robotics is a relatively young industry,
it has gone through various iterations of technology
Healthcare telepresence robot (In Touch Technologies, Inc.).
probably the first step in
the evolution of practical
service robots. Many of
today's deployed service
robots still have all their
motions initiated and
controlled by a human
operator. The military
robots deployed in Iraq and
robotic surgery robots, and
robots are good examples
of these types of robots.
The introduction of
50 SERVO 01.2009