Service Robots and Robotics: Design and Application

Service Robots and Robotics: Design and Application

Marco Ceccarelli (University of Cassino, Italy)
Indexed In: SCOPUS
Release Date: March, 2012|Copyright: © 2012 |Pages: 441
ISBN13: 9781466602915|ISBN10: 1466602910|EISBN13: 9781466602922|DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-0291-5


Service robots serve a wide range of people in residential, commercial, industrial, military, and many more applied fields.

Service Robots and Robotics: Design and Application offers the latest research within the field, combining a mixture of case studies, research, and future directions. Staying abreast of the latest research within the field not only affords practitioners and academics the foot forward they need, it allows for a comprehensive look into the latest advances in a burgeoning field of technology. From tasks no humans can do to everyday tasks for the disabled and elderly, service robots are an enormously important facet of modern technology, and this volume offers a current look into their state of the art.

Topics Covered

The many academic areas covered in this publication include, but are not limited to:

  • Actuators
  • Domestic Robot
  • Human-Machine Interaction
  • Kinematic Design
  • Motion Generation
  • Nonconventional Applications
  • PatrolBot
  • Security Robot
  • Sensor Equipment
  • Teaching Projects

Reviews and Testimonials

The authors are well-reputed scientists working in the area of robotics with expertise and experience both in design and practice of service robots from different countries. This is also to show the worldwide distribution of interests and results of service robots.

– Marco Ceccarelli, University of Cassino, Italy

Table of Contents and List of Contributors

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According to the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), "a service robot is a robot which operates semi or fully autonomously to perform services useful to the well being of human and equipment, excluding manufacturing operations.”

Service is the task that characterizes this class of robots as very different from conventional industrial robots. Service is mainly devoted to benefits for humans and therefore it is identified with features of human-machine interactions and variety of operations. These two aspects have stimulated a great attention in the last decade both in research for design and in practice for applications. Those activities are still growing and the fecundity of output yields an optimistic future of developments.

Human-machine interactions involve issues of comfort and safety both for humans and robotic machines. Safety issues have also stimulated the need of codes and standards both for general frames and specific areas of applications. Today there is a lot of attention given to these regulation aspects even within research frames. Market implementation has required such a regulation since the beginning of possibilities for service robots in the 1990s. The starting points were the rules that were defined for industrial robots and for machinery with risky operation. The development of such codes requires in general a matured experience in the many frames of research, design, implementation, market, application, and use. This is why development for codes and standards for service robots is a complex task, taking time and effort from representatives of the different above areas.

In this activity ISO (International Organization for Standardization,, with its technical committees, has been very active and prompt in developing frames of discussions and then in proposing the needed international standards. Indeed, activity is still undergoing with several sub-committees within ISO, but even national standard organizations have addressed attention to those topics. For example developments are faced through a ISO technical committee ISO/TC184/SC and also within EC Machinery Directive of the European Parliament when those service robots are understood as machinery in general.

Besides comfort issues, aspects involving users are the most challenging since they include issues of education, training, acceptance, and appreciation from users, who are in general common people. Thus, it can take time for a good service robot to achieve the success, that nevertheless is strongly based on proper technology developments. This is the case, for example, of the home clearing robots, that although conceived and developed more than ten years ago, only now can be sold successfully in the market for wide application in houses worldwide.

This is to stress that one of the most challenging issues for acceptance and success of service robots in frames of large community of users is the acceptance aspect that involves user’s education and training but mainly psychological attitude towards novelties and new technologies. This last aspect is why engineers should work more and more in collaboration with medical frames, although most of the time experiences of this type of problem are attached during test campaigns and feasibility validations of prototypes by using potential users, even in lab environments.

These aspects of acceptance and appreciation by users are fundamental bases for developing suitable codes and standards. A matured experience in those aspects for regulation tasks requires, in general, a lot of time for the diversity both of service tasks and user communities. This is why the activity for codes and standards still requires further developments of service robots and their successful applications.
In addition, developments of service robots will require mechatronics approaches and even a particular attention to market constraints. Mechatronics approaches refer to needs of developing a fully integrated system with suitable hardware and software to achieve a required autonomy in operation but a capability to complete the service tasks. Furthermore, modern systems include a strong attention for sustainable energy consumption and environment contamination both in manufacturing and operating a system. This means an augmented concept of mechatronics, including more and more disciplines from technical viewpoints for considering those aspects not directly linked with the service goals.

Specific constraints for service robots are due to market evaluation as mainly concerning cost and user-oriented operation.

Market feasibility in terms of cost does not necessarily mean low-cost, but a well thought out cost-benefits output as compared with the alternative traditional ways to perform a specific service.

User-oriented operation requires the development of a system with functioning characteristics that must be well suited to users’ capabilities, mainly in terms of technical understanding. This will include not only reducting the complexity of service robots, but even promoting suitable education and training in potential users. Indeed, those aspects will match with mechatronic design of service robots with aim to require a suitable formation and continuous education with a vision of integrated teaching, even for designers. At academic frames, teaching for young engineers is very rarely given with a multidisciplinary approach, since the beginning and challenges are still under consideration within reforming plans that are imposed by governmental programs for other needs of reduction of formation expense and increase of professional efficiency.

Thus, the field of service robots is a promising frame to achieve mechatronic developments and understanding both from providers and users.

A service action can be understood as a complex set of operations, that can achieve goals  with a variety of aspects in manipulation and transportation but also in dealing with interactions with environment, objects, and human beings as users or operators or assisted persons.

A definition of service gives a very general description of tasks that can be expected by robots, when the service is considered versus humans, but from technical viewpoints, service can be even understood in a more wider sense and as function of the community of interest. This ambiguity or generality is reflected in the large variety of tasks that define robots or automatic systems as service robots, when in a system certain autonomy and task versatility are included in the operation capability.

Thus, a service robot can be understood as an automatic system with flexibility and versatility capabilities that is aimed to perform a service by considering constraints and/or interactions with humans or other systems within frames for their uncertainties and variety are much different from industry applications.
One aim of this book is to give an overview of such variety of service tasks and solutions of service robots. This can be understood also with the aim to stimulate new designs and new applications for robots in services within new and old application frames.

The book chapters describe an overview of issues and characteristics of service and service robots as the authors have experienced directly in their research activity for design and application of their solutions. A reader will appreciate the differences but the common frames in those activities and robot solutions that give a vision of a field that can group the efforts from different engineering communities with common backgrounds.

For a decade, service robots have addressed great attention for developing new robotic systems for new applications even in no technical areas. Typical robots are already developed for medical care, space exploration, demining operation, surveillance, entertainment, museum guides, and many other no industrial applications. In some cases, results are already available in the market. A considerable literature is also available on far more than merely the technical issues listed in the chapters of the book.

Service robots can be developed with the aim to perform operations in specific no-industrial tasks, whose main characteristics are related with interactions with their environment, within which a task can be fulfilled by including often human beings. Thus, those robots do a service that is a complete task with their actions, which are often much more extended and complicated than in industrial applications. In addition, even the specificity of service goals require different solutions both for design and operation, and a large variety of robots and mainly robotic systems have been and can be still developed. In fact, a considerable experience has been  achieved in the last decade and a vast literature  is already available with proposals of a large variety of service robots, by emphasizing design issues as well as operation success with procedures and algorithms that can be used specifically as adjusted from general approaches for a variety of cases.

Service robots are the new vast area of development for Robotics and indeed for other disciplines too. Thus, great attention and considerable activity are addressed to all the aspects of research, design, implementation, formation, application, and innovation transfer. Trends of those activities can be seen with an increase of projects, design solutions, market sales, and innovative uses.

Nevertheless, future activities are not fully identified since the topic gives indeed for exploration towards unexpected problems and solutions, mainly when further multidisciplinary integrations will be attempted in new areas of service applications.

One key point for service robots can be considered human-machine interactions and corresponding interfaces that can determine the success or failure of a service operation. Indeed, the mechanical design of human-machine interface is not very often considered a critical issue, but it is often included as an issue in the overall design of mechanical solutions within servocontrolled operation and environment interaction.

Human-machine interaction together with user acceptance can be considered the main challenge for further developments of service robots both from the general approach viewpoint and the specific solution workout. Human-machine interaction is usually attached from technological viewpoints looking at issues of safety and comfort of human users. Those issues require deep insight of biomechanical aspects that become part of the development process of service robot too.  

Views of those aspects are reported in this book at different levels of discussion as function of the authors’ experience and service specific aims.

A second important issue is related with the acceptance of robotic systems and corresponding psychological aspects, when robots are proposed to operators and users in fields with a very low level of technical means in their current work practice.

These two subjects are the core of the discussion in this book, whose aim is to illustrate the potentiality but the problems for widespread robots and robotic systems in all human activities with service aims.
Authors have been invited from all around the world, and chapters have been selected after review as to approach the most challenging aspects and applications of service robotic systems with the aim to survey the current state-of-the-art and its future potentiality.

The organization of the book has been planned in order to give an overview on service robots through direct experiences of the authors. The book is organized from general topics to specific applications, and therefore, it is convenient to read the chapters sequentially. Nevertheless, it the authors have written chapters with self-contained content, avoided repetition, and limited overlapping that is needed to chain the chapters. Therefore, it is also possible to use single chapters as referring to specific areas or subjects of interest. In addition, the book can be also used as supplementary reading for teaching Robotics and mainly Service Robotics. Indeed, when concerned with Service Robots, the book and even single chapters can be used both for a teaching reference and as a professional handbook. In fact, the book is thought of as a handbook, but it is also directed to students in engineering and practitioners with a character of explaining the reported designs and applications both with fundamentals and details of achievements.
This work has been thought an interesting book project by both the scientific editor and publisher since early 2010, because although there are many books on Robotics, there was not yet a specific book on Service Robots with the character of a handbook with indications both of fundamentals and applications from the direct experience of authors. Thus, besides a call for chapters, the book has been achieved by looking at specific subjects by inviting well-reputed colleagues from the wide area of Robotics from all around the world. In fact, the book has been generated both by receiving proposals and by inviting contributions. However, a special care in the peer-evaluation process has suggested proper revisions to achieve the above-mentioned characters of handbook with self-contained chapters. Each author has been asked to cover the main aspects of Service Robotics both in well-established topics and in emerging areas of interest. Thus, each chapter has been evaluated by independent reviewers in order to ensure high-quality contents with latest information and results.

In Chapter 1, the history of service robots is briefly outlined with main events. A definition of the service robot is discussed with historical evolution and statistical data are reported. The described history of service robots covers the ancient period with robot precursors, the middle ages, and the period of the industrial revolution. The chapter is concluded by focusing on future  trends.

Chapter 2 is aimed to present a kinematic analysis of service robots with a modern interpretation of the classical Screw Theory. The forward kinematics problem and inverse kinematics problem are discussed in detail with the Jacobian determination. A quadruped robot is used for a numerical example that facilitates understanding.

Chapter 3, on task analysis and motion generation, is focused on presenting research for domestic service robots with particular attention to robotic implementation for the ironing process. Handling and ironing is modeled from a procedural point of view into several steps with common handling operations by using suitable gripping and handling devices. In particular, ironing paths are identified with an orientation-position representation as well as folding and unfolding are studied for practical implementation. This involves path analysis, folding algorithms, and mechanisms designed for ironing. The paths produced from the ironing process are presented with mathematical models that can be implemented in robotic automation with orientations depending on the regions of garment.

The purpose of Chapter 4 is to present a mission planning approach for a service robot which moves and manipulates objects in semi-structured and partly known indoor environments such as stores, hospitals, and libraries. This chapter is based on the existing knowledge of motion planning and vehicle routing with the aim to propose a new approach, which is developed from the Bump-Surface concept. The Bump-Surface concept is used to represent the entire robot’s environment through a single mathematical entity. The whole problem is formulated as a constrained global optimization problem, which is solved by using a Genetic Algorithm. Experiments are reported with discussions in order to show the effectiveness of the proposed method.

In Chapter 5, formulation is presented for the dynamics of the articulated limbs in a service robot.  Using the Lagrangian framework, a detailed description of the derivation of the equation of motion and its physical interpretation are outlined by looking at the cases of limbs acting in isolation, e.g., a single hand, and also together, as in holding an object with both the hands.  Examples are illustrated as referring to hands of a humanoid robot, when considered in isolation, and when clasped together or holding an object with both hands, respectively. The examples are considered to be planar in order to keep them simple; however, the formulation presented is fairly general, so that a reader can, very easily, use it to model and simulate spatial manipulators too.

Chapter 6 is focused on the interest in using mobile robots in education as increased over the last two decades, since it is a multidisciplinary exercise in which a student needs to apply different subjects related to robotics, control engineering, software engineering, and electronics. Thus, in  the chapter, an example is detailed as referring to  the design and development of a mobile robot for the assistance of people with restricted mobility by students of the last course of the Automatic Control and Electronic Engineering career at the Engineering School of Bilbao, Spain. The chapter presents an approach to integrate those skills acquired by graduate students in the design of a service robot by using different disciplines both in software and hardware.

Chapter 7 reports academic activity in teaching integration of basic sciences and technological aspects within an experience of an integrated project (IP-7) at the current Mechatronics Engineering course at the Polytechnic School, University of Sao Paulo, Brazil. The chapter describes the period-project theme, characteristics of each involved discipline, development process, obtained results, employed methods, computational tools, facilities, and other resources within a cooperation of several teachers. Human aspects and technical formation are considered in the process to provide project goals with increasing complexity. Results are reported in detail for the case of developing low-cost parallel robots for service applications by students.

In Chapter 8, the attention is focused on human-friendly autonomous or semi-autonomous robots that are natural and intuitive for the average consumer to: interact with; communicate with; and work with as partners, besides learning new capabilities. An overview is presented on the mechanism design and intelligent control strategies implementation, on different platforms and their applications to entertainment and education domains for a wide range of users. In particular, an anthropomorphic saxophonist robot (designed to mechanically reproduce the organs involved during the saxophone playing) and a two-wheeled inverted pendulum (designed to introduce the principles of mechanics, electronics, control, and programming at different education levels) are discussed in detail both in design and operation characteristics.

Chapter 9 is focused on rehabilitation in applications for repeated movements of human limbs that can help the patient regain function in the injured limb by using three types of mechanical systems, namely robots, cable-based manipulators, and exoskeletons. This chapter presents a summary of the principal human limb movements, a review of several mechanical systems used for rehabilitation, as well as common mathematical models of such systems. In particular the modelling of mechanical systems used for rehabilitation of motion of human limbs with multi-body systems technique as linked to the anatomy of the injured body part are discussed. In addition, other criteria are considered in the presentation as referring to therapy performance, ability to handle different levels of impairment at different stages of rehabilitation, costs, facility for use by therapists and patients, space needs for mounting and possibility for re-mounting.

Chapter 10 is motivated by need to clean almost 1 million landmines on the Turkish border as  a great challenge to the  Turkish military, both as a safety and a feasibility issue. The chapter discusses this special field of service as referring to the above-mentioned specific case. Thus, a so-called Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) robot reported with its built prototype. Design criteria and  operation characteristics of the prototype procedure are explained in detail as specifically referring to autonomy, use of an advisory system, and automatic camera manipulation, even for future improvements. Failures of prototype tests are also reported with the aim to outline special features and need for this special service application of robots.

In Chapter 11, worm-like locomotion is presented for robot design in pipeline inspections. The specific prototype developed by the author is used for explaining both the peculiarities of the specific design and the general features of such service applications. In particular, the presented service robot has a simple construction and does not need any special actuators such as wheels, caterpillars, or legs. In fact, mobile vibration robots can move not only in space but also in dense materials, which are not available for wheeled or leg-equipped robots.  This advantage allows creating miniature micro-robots capable of moving in narrow channels, slits, vessels, and environments, inaccessible for other mobile objects. A mathematical model for a mobile vibration-driven system is presented as consisting of two solid bodies, connected by the piecewise linear viscous-elastic element and the electromagnetic drive. The system moves along a rough surface by using friction asymmetry at the mass-surface contact. Both shock-free and shock modes of motion are presented in detail to obtain dependences of the average velocity of the system on the frequency of the external periodic control voltage.

Chapter 12 is devoted to describing careful activity of survey and restoration that can be understood as service tasks for suitable robotic systems for the preservation and benefit of goods of Cultural Heritage.  In particular, in this chapter non-technical aspects are also discussed as fundamental for the acceptance and use by non-technical operators in the new field of service robot applications for survey and restoration of architectonic goods of Cultural Heritage value. Examples are illustrated from authors’ experience with the aim to stress the problems and challenges in applications for service robotic systems in Cultural Heritage frames. Fundamental issues and challenges are discussed in the chapter as related to applications in Cultural Heritage frames with the aim to outline general guidelines for a successful design and operation with acceptance by operators and users, even when they are not technical experts, mainly for applications in survey and restoration activities of cultural goods. Examples for restoration and survey of historical goods are illustrated as from the direct experience of the authors with the aim to stress specific problems and challenges that can be approached for novel service robots in Cultural Heritage frames.

Chapter 13 introduces a calibration algorithm to estimate the accurate configuration parameters between the robot arm and the camera, a flexible and efficient solution of eye-to-hand and workspace calibration for mobile service robots. This technique is presented as accomplished through two successive parts: calibrate the laser distance sensor with respect to the robot arm and then calibrate the relationships of the robot arm, the camera, and the working space. This work proposes a self-calibration method by using a laser distance sensor mounted on the robot arm. The advantage of the method, as compared with the traditional pattern-based one, is that the workspace coordinate is also obtained at the same time when using the projected laser spot. Computer simulations are reported to evaluate the calibration method and to analyze the performances in different conditions. Then experimental results are discussed as  consistent with the simulation to validate the method. In addition, modeling is  specifically formulated for the operation of the service system as a proposed mapping from the robot commands to the camera images produces the desired relationships. Several computer simulations are provided for readers as design references.

Chapter 14 presents original applications and developments in the field of robotics, referring to the design and operation of two service robot arms. These robots have been developed in the ROBIOSS team of the PPRIME Institute from Poitiers University, France, with industrial partners. The design procedure for these two innovative applications are related to industrial and entertainment areas. The first application concerns a robot with a wide area printing capability. The second service robot is a solution that is installed since 2006 in the Futuroscope Park and its so-called artist robot that draws portraits of visitors by using a camera and a pen attached to its end-effector.

In Chapter 15, modular and reconfigurable cable-driven robotic arms consisting of identical modules are presented as assistive robotic arms for help and assistance of aging and disabled people. In this chapter, a modular design concept is employed in order to simplify design, analysis, and control of a reconfigurable cable-driven robotic arm to a manageable level. Critical design analysis issues pertaining to the kinematics analysis, tension analysis, and workspace-based design optimization of the 2-DOF cable-driven joint module are discussed in detail. In particular, computationally efficient algorithms are formulated to check kinematic operability and the tension status using force-closure condition. The effectiveness of the proposed design analysis algorithms are demonstrated through simulation examples. A built prototype is presented to demonstrate the modular design concept and to be used as a test bed.
Chapter 16 presents recent developments and original systems that allow modelling and improvement of the capacities of wheeled mobile service robots on natural ground as mainly related to obstacle-crossing and steering. A wide panorama of existing systems are presented with details on their designs and operations. Particular emphasis is addressed to vehicles and solutions that have been developed by the authors at IFMA in Clemont-Ferrand, France.

Chapter 17 attaches the problem of robot cooperation for handling objects in service tasks that use two or more robot arms. The problem is formulated from the point of view of path planning, kinematics, and movement synchronization. The chapter discusses a new method of using robots to interact with humans in order to provide assistance services. Using suitable sensors, those robots can be able to detect the human operator and to avoid collisions by using a suitable implemented strategy. The chapter presents two types of robot service tasks with robot movement synchronization with human-robot natural interaction, namely one with heavy objects that cannot handle a single arm and a latter when the two arms share a common workspace. Both modelling and experiments are reported in detail in order to discuss the peculiarities and difficulties of achieving successful operation when human-like gestures are used in interaction with human operators.

In Chapter 18, service robots are presented as machines for applications in agricultural fields. The mechanization in agriculture is discussed, and service robots are described for particular tasks. Besides the most common applications, related to the fertilizer spreading and sowing phases, particular attention is directed to pneumatic-actuated systems for applications in  harvesting and treatment of hortofruit  products. A significant case study is reported as referring to harvesting and collecting saffron flower spice.

The authors are well-reputed scientists working in the area of robotics with expertise and experience both in design and practice of service robots from different countries. This is also to show the worldwide distribution of interests and results of service robots.

The scientific editor, himself, has expertise and experience of more than two decades in the field of robotics, with special attention to low-cost user-oriented designs and operations. He is well reputed worldwide, since his results have been published in his books and in a large bibliography of papers presented in conferences or printed in journals, and even in invited keynote lectures.

I believe that readers will take advantages in reading the chapters in this book with satisfaction and motivation for her or his future work with interdisciplinary activity for engineering developments of service robots in old and new applications.

I am grateful to the authors of the chapters for their valuable contributions and for preparing their manuscripts on time. Also acknowledged is the professional assistance by the staff of IGI Global and especially by Hannah Abelbeck, who has enthusiastically supported this book project with help and advice.

I am grateful to my family: my wife Brunella, daughters Elisa and Sofia, and son Raffaele for their patience and understanding, without which the organization of this book with so many people from different fields and countries might be impossible.

Marco Ceccarelli
University of Cassino, Italy
November 2011

Author(s)/Editor(s) Biography

Marco Ceccarelli is Full Professor of Mechanics of Machinery and Director of LARM, Laboratory of Robotics and Mechatronics at University of Cassino. He is a member of Robotics Commission of IFToMM, the International Federation for the Promotion of Machine and Mechanism Science. He has written the books Fundamentals of Mechanics of Robotic Manipulation in 2004 and Mecanismos in 2008. He is current President of IFToMM. His research interests are in mechanics of mechanisms and robots. He is author/co-author of 500 papers, presented at conferences or published in journals, he has edited 14 books, and conference proceedings and specific topics.


Editorial Board

  • Oscar Altuzarra, University of the Basque Country, Spain
  • Marco Ceccarelli, University of Cassino, Italy
  • Xilun Ding, Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, China
  • Grigore Gogu, French Institute of Advanced Mechanics, France & Blaise Pascal University, France
  • Guilin Yang, Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology, Singapore