Robotic Helpers in Households

care-o-bot-flirty-robot

Prof. Ing. Peter Hubinský, PhD.
Institute of Robotics and Cybernetics (IRC), STUBA
Bratislava, Slovakia

In recent years, a lot has been written about the use of robots in households. However, many automatically working devices are often called robots for advertisement purposes (kitchen robots, for example), even when this is far from the actual meaning of the word ‘robot’.

 

In this sense, modern robotic vacuum cleaners can be considered robots, with multiple sensors to help them find their way through the rooms of an apartment and avoid obstacles; or robotic lawnmowers with their clever algorithms that ensure an even cut of the lawn, protect the flower beds and avoid collisions in the same time. Somewhat simpler robots clean the surface and the bottom of smaller swimming pools or carry out similar time-consuming tasks.

 

Robot Flymo

Robot Flymo

Recently, telepresence robots controlled remotely are used to check your house or your pets when you are not at home. In the near future, we can imagine security robots that can patrol a designated area, and raise an alarm in case of emergency, or intervene directly and eliminate the threat.

 

Market potential for domestic robots is much bigger than for industrial or agricultural robots, just because the number of households is bigger than the number of industrial or agricultural companies (although, the largest of these can use hundreds of robots). On the other hand, this is a particularly complex field with regard to dynamic changes in people’s living spaces (compared to industrial spaces), and especially because domestic robots are operated by lay people, including children and the elderly.

 

Roomba

Roomba, automatic cleaner

Many of us dream about a universal robot carrying out household chores, taking care of an ill family member, playing with children and taking the dog out for a walk. With certain specific tasks, this is already possible today. For example, a robot can recognize a limited number of people, follow their movement in an apartment and turn itself into an intelligent serving table when needed. It can accomplish a simple communication, inform a person about the time or the weather or remind them to use their medication. A robot can watch their owner and if they lose consciousness or stop communicating as a result of their illness, the robot calls for help. What remains a challenge, is understanding conversational speech and carrying out new tasks that require movement in a new territory or manipulation with unfamiliar objects. People are learning to perform certain activities since early childhood, but robots are expected to execute any new task successfully right away.

 

With mass production of robots, with application of new sensors and improved performance of built-in algorithms we can expect these challenges to be resolved. Budding Internet of Things, enabling sharing of information among multiple robots, can be very helpful here. Successful domestic use of robots can certainly be enhanced by adjusting the environment to the robots’ capabilities. For a robot, it is easier to identify an object that has a graphic sign, or to locate the position with the help of navigation signs, for example, placed on the ceiling. People might need to yield here to robotic technologies

 

 



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