PROVEN Robotics’ Mohammed Aldousari, Regional Robotics Lead, outlines the transition of robots from industrial applications to service roles that bisect and positively impact day-to-day human life.
In her book ‘In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination,’ novelist, literary critic, environmental activist, and inventor Margaret Atwood stated, “Human toolmakers always make tools that will help us get what we want, and what we want hasn’t changed for thousands of years because as far as we can tell the human template hasn’t changed either”. This statement seems true for the foreseeable future when we look back through our history, current trends, and fictional depictions of the time ahead.
Humanity has always found ways and means to improve things, whether by necessity or desire. The next stage encompasses the broader integration of robots into our personal and business lives.
Of course, robots have been serving as critical parts of engineering chains such as industrial production for many years, known as industrial robots. However, some robots, known as service robots, can operate as standalone, isolated machines that perform select tasks continuously, with minimal intervention or interruption. Service robots are relatively new to the market, and, as their name might imply, they are designed to support humans in their daily lives.
For the last few years, innovation around service robots has been limited, but that is rapidly changing, thanks to a convergence of technologies that are bringing with them previously unheard-of levels of sophistication and capability to these machines.
As a result of increased innovation, and drivers such as the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the market for service robots is growing. As per a Service Robotics Market report and forecast published by Mordor Intelligence, the market is predicted to grow by CAGR of 44.9% between 2023 and 2028. As per the World Robotics 2021 Service Robot report, the market is expected to be worth US $70 billion by 2032.
Service robots offer several benefits when built to deliver specific services, including an improvement in efficiency since multiple types of routines can be specified and executed without failure, a boost in productivity due to their ability to perform tasks 24/7, and they offer safety benefits since they can take over dangerous and/or stressful jobs from people. As a result, they are ideal for several applications, such as:
- Customer services.
- Education and remote learning.
- Rehabilitation and medical recovery.
- Sanitation and cleanliness.
- Transport and delivery, and telepresence and social company.
While the thought of automated services and sophisticated machinery and equipment may stir up human redundancy and retrenchment fears, the reality is quite different. With analysis, the large-scale benefits of using service robots for customers/owners and workers are evident across many fast-growing markets, which will be discussed below.
A Hive of Activity – The World of Logistics
The logistic and warehousing sector is where volume goods are delivered, stacked, indexed, retrieved, and dispatched constantly. Given the repetitive, potentially dangerous, and strenuous nature of work in this scenario, service robots are the ideal fit since they can be programmed to address any of these segments of the warehousing operational processes. The form factor of these robots can be anything from autonomous vehicles to lifters and carriers and, more recently, even highly capable drones.
These relatively low intelligence machines are usually deployed in large numbers (to be helpful) and so are enjoying high demand. In fact, over the next decade, robots fitting these form factors are expected to see a CAGR of 21%.
Keeping it Clean!
Taking advantage of service robots in the cleaning and sanitisation sector makes perfect sense as this sector is characterized by repetitive tasks that must be accomplished on a set schedule and the use of chemicals that might affect human health in the long run. Here, service robots can quickly clean and sanitise, so the environment, be it a home, workplace, place of leisure, or any other area, is fit for habitation and usage by humans.
Due to the importance of this massive sector and the raft of benefits service robots offer, the household and professional cleaning robots’ segment is the second largest among service robots. Various effective cleaning and sanitisation tools can be built into service robots and can be either contact or non-contact-based, i.e., brushes and detergents or sprays and UV light. The use of service robots in the cleaning and sanitisation sector was significantly pushed during the initial pandemic, as thousands of organisations deployed these robots around the world.
Service with a Smile
Service robots designed for customer service can automate many basic tasks via real-time face-to-face customer interactions. These robots can be mobile or stationary and have humanoid or non-humanoid form factors. Typically, investments in robots here result in the automation of several tasks and routines, high efficiency, workforce savings, and 24/7/365 productivity.
Several well-known service robots are already in this segment, including Pepper, Double 3, PuduBot, BellaBot, KettBot, HolaBot, Puductor 2, and Xenex. Apart from providing information and offering a limited range of services in response to customer inputs, these service robots, and others like them are important as they can gather engagement data from the experiences customers have with them. This can include parameters such as the nature of the query, success rate, time spent, and more.
Generally speaking, customer service robots enable people to locate products in a retail environment, assist with the price of an item, or even complete a particular task for the person. In addition, they can guide hospitality or retail customers through the environment. Over time, they have become more intuitive and, as a result, have become expected fixtures in retail outlets, shopping malls, and even family entertainment centres.
Pepper features face recognition software and a touchscreen display, an excellent example of a service robot designed to perceive emotions and form empathetic connections with users. Some of its successful use cases include performing airport concierge and hospital assistant duties.
Considering the benefits service robots already offer, the ongoing introduction of new, innovative, and capable robots, and a regional desire to shine as a hotspot for technology, the near future could see a tidal wave of service robot adoption within the Middle East. The key to this future is working with a qualified regional service provider that will enable you to deploy and reap the benefits of robotic innovation.