Service robots as helpers in need

Service robots as helpers in need

Even outside the factory, human work is being joined by machine work

At the end of march 2016, i wanted to reward myself after a lecture on animal-friendly robot cars. I walked over to the stanford shopping mall, past evergreen trees and squirrels climbing around. Before tiffany co. Stood a security robot. He looked almost as elegant as audrey hepburn in front of the jeweler’s window in new york. I turned to him, but he was silent. Later i learned that he can see, hear and smell. Talking is not his thing. It rolls around and reports suspicious things to a control center, which sends human security personnel in case of doubt. This has not completely lost its job. It is available on call.

During a visit to a company in bern in the same year, i encountered a transport robot. It was accompanied by two employees, who put it in its place with voice commands. He was not very communicative either. I was allowed to open his flap, under which you can stow packets, and make further investigations. Then he moved on, like a little, fat, lazy dog. One day they wanted to use it to deliver the mail in the cities, supervised only from a distance. I did not think this was a good idea. Not so much because letter carriers would lose their jobs – of which there were still enough. Rather, because mail carriers would stumble over it. And because it was too slow.

In 2017 i was invited to the company again. I loved to be driven around by its smart shuttle on a new test track. In sion, valais, it had already been in operation since 2016. Automatic driving of this kind works, even in the city. The speed is low, the route predetermined. The driver becomes a passenger, the passenger gets out, and no one notices. Let’s see how far they really push it.

After that they wanted to show me the transport drones. Unfortunately, the room where they were dreaming about their future was occupied by a physical meeting (in the times before covid-19). Later they flew over zurich, over the lake and over the forest – and crashed. They had not come too close to the sun, had not collided with birds, but had simply been faulty. As fast as they were, they fell on one’s head.

Nursing robots as special robots in nursing care

Since january 2017, i have been in exchange with a company at zurich that is producing two nursing robots in small series, one single-armed in europe, one two-armed in china. These are ultimately cooperation and collaboration robots, so-called co-robots or cobots, as they are known in industry, and have been mounted on mobile platforms. One can pick up something with his arm, take something away and fetch it – and open a bottle with the help of a device on his body. The other one could hug with its two arms, such a scenario, a person in need of care, who then spurts as much as when he hugs himself, namely nothing (until you wrap your arms around her and warm her up and she feels a slight sense of well-being). And he could dress and undress her – for a robot very difficult, like passing food. Both have mastered the art of communication. One of them even tries dialect. This is appreciated in switzerland, even if it is a machine.

Nursing robots are usually used together with a nurse. They are allowed to do some things on their own. The european model mentioned above is being taught how to collect patients. It rolls from door to door, knocks with a stick, waits for an answer, pushes down the handle, calls something into the room, closes the door to preserve privacy, rolls on. Such activities will increase. Of course, it will be decades before nursing staff become superfluous. It is understandable that some of them are still afraid. Otherwise, it is mainly the relatives of those in need of care who are afraid, not so much the robots themselves – if the robot helps them, they do not care that it is not a human being.

There are repeated calls for the term "robot in care" in care. Of course, we can now speak of pome fruit and no longer of apples – but this gives away certain possibilities of differentiation. The term care robot basically works like all corresponding composites: the front part refers to the area for which the robot has been specifically developed. Whether therapy robots, sex robots or – to give an example beyond service robots – industrial robots: in no case is it claimed that the area is fully covered. And usually there is enough space and need for other types in it or next to it.

For example, certain cleaning or transport robots play a role in the care sector. These can be subsumed together with the nursing robots, if they are suitable for old people’s homes and nursing homes and are used there, under the term of robots in care. They were easily adapted, but in turn they were easily integrated into the hotel.

Service robots as helpers in distress

Service robots as special robots in the care

Service robots as helpers in need

Service robots complement and take over our everyday work more or less well. They can also do something that is too dangerous, too strenuous or impossible for us to do. They can observe animals, disarm bombs, enter caves and explore mars. Crises and catastrophes will increase, due to species extinction, climate change and diseases of all kinds.

In china, service robots have been used to deliver food and medicine to covid-19 patients. There one is by no means miles ahead. Several transport robots originate from california – besides the one mentioned, a relatively rough one that is not a tripping hazard. I recently met him in switzerland, where he is supposed to catch fub, in spite of his wheels (which are attached to almost all service robots).

Every country that wants to be prepared for emergencies should – as i already demanded in a small article in february – set up cohorts of robots. We need to develop security robots, transport robots, care robots and disinfection robots and let them work together. In a few years, there may be generalists, and the nursing robot mentioned is being made palatable for other tasks, such as disinfection. But in the cooperation and collaboration, between humans and robots and between robots, lies today the solution.


Bendel, oliver; gasser, alina; siebenmann, joel. Co-robots as care robots. Accepted paper of the aaai 2020 spring symposium "applied ai in healthcare: safety, community, and the environment" (stanford university). In: arxiv, 10. April 2020. Cornell university, ithaca 2020. Bendel, oliver. Service robots as rescuers in times of need. In: ictkommunikation, 28. February 2020. Bendel, oliver (ed.). Care robots. Springer gabler, wiesbaden 2018. Bendel, oliver. Care robots. Contribution to the gabler business dictionary. Springer gabler, wiesbaden 2016.

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