Are Home Service Robots Closer than We Think?

Rosie the robot maid is not available for purchase and most experts don’t expect to see anything like her in the next decade. But a new take on a home service robot is providing some optimism.

Stretch, an off-the-shelf robot, paired with open source AI, can now respond to commands like “Pick up the brown box and drop it on the chair.”

What’s hard about home service?

Several robot vacuum cleaners and mops are already available, offering varying degrees of automation and cleaning capabilities. Some can navigate rooms, handle various surfaces, and even empty their dustbins automatically. These robots often struggle with complex layouts, obstacles, and deep cleaning tasks like scrubbing or dusting furniture. They might require user intervention for tasks like emptying specific trash cans or tackling spills.

In fact, they’re famous for requiring user intervention for their most basic tasks.

In general, robots are not good with varied and uncertain situations. Robots find it challenging to deal with non-uniform items on a conveyor belt, let alone the normal range of objects in homes. And homes are all different from one another. This is in fact the reason that the Stretch experiment does seem to encourage optimism. The researchers shared a video of a room with Stretch and then told it to pick up the items and put them in specific places. Even though it had never previously entered the room, it was able to follow these instructions nearly 60% of the time.

Advances in artificial intelligence and sensor technology could lead to robots that map and navigate homes more efficiently, handling clutter and uneven surfaces better.
More powerful and versatile cleaning mechanisms could tackle different surfaces, dust furniture, and even handle delicate tasks like washing dishes. Robots could learn and adapt to specific cleaning needs, personal preferences, and even anticipate cleaning requirements based on sensors and smart home integration.

What’s the value?

The value of the example robot as it stands is minimal. “Pick up X and put it in spot Y” is not equivalent to “Clean up the room.” It requires the human to be present and involved in the cleanup throughout and the results won’t be very good. A human toddler could do it better.

This is, once again, a hint of what robots might be able to accomplish in the future.

Rich now, industrial robots are extremely valuable. If your facility still uses Indramat motion control, we can provide the service and support you need to keep your legacy systems working perfectly. Call for immediate assistance.