Friday, April 07, 2006

Service Robots - Shell Smart Pump

This short write-up features an updated overview of the flourishing and vibrant developments (i.e., in the industry, consumer market and the research field) related to the interesting area of service robots. Service robots assist human beings, typically by performing a job that is dirty, dull, distant or dangerous. This type of robot typically is autonomous and /or operated by a building control system, with manual override options [1]. They have applications in almost every industry – anywhere where work is repetitive, requires continuously high levels of concentration, is physically demanding or takes place in dangerous environments. Examples of areas where service robots are working, or in development, includes (i.e., but is not limited to) industrial cleaning, equipment maintenance, human domestic tasks and data acquisition. The Da Vinci robotic surgery system is a service robot, along with a whole host of other medical/healthcare robots such as rehabilitation robots, and prosthetic and orthotic devices [2]. An example of a service robot is an industrial application which International Submarine Engineering Ltd (I.S.E) designed in April 1997. It is called “Shell Smart Pump” (Figure 1). The Shell Smart Pump is a robotic system to refuel automobiles [3]. The first test site is in Sacramento California.
Figure 1: Shell Smart Pump
Shell Smart Pump provides many advantages to the motorist, the environment, and to the service station operator. It is arguably the world's most sophisticated robot development in 25 years, and will change the way society perceives robots. Shell Smart Pump is the world’s first robot that is operable by people with no training and has 11 patents that are pending. For the sake of safety, Shell Smart Pump was designed with significant sensor and control redundancy. Customers are not inconvenienced when placing an order for fuel as there is a customer control panel (i.e., customer interface) that moves to the customer. The Shell Smart Pump fuels cars regardless of which side the fuel door is located. The Shell Smart Pump is able to fuel virtually all production automobiles (i.e., those manufactured from 1986 onwards) sold in North America.
Figure 2: Robotizing Lives. Founders of Robhatah: Mr Tan Shin Jiuh, Dr Prahlad Vadakkepat and Mr Janesh Janardhanan
Many interesting initiatives and developments related to service robots in the research arena. I have discovered a company (i.e., named ‘Robhatah’) in Singapore that is specially founded to cater to people’s needs in the service industry. Robhatah is a robotics consulting and manufacturing company [4]. With a view to developing revolutionary robotic solutions for the emerging mass markets, Robhatah was founded in December 2003 by a team of engineers at the NUS Centre for Intelligent Control under the guidance of Dr Prahlad.
Advances in embedded technologies are finally making consumer goods a reality. Recent research results show an emerging personal and service robotics market surpassing US$20 billion by 2010, and US$90 billion by 2020 [4]. Robhatah is pitched at gaining significant consumer mindshare in these emerging markets. Robhatah is currently marketing two award-winning robotic research platforms – a humanoid robot and a robot soccer system – catering to the research robotics market. The humanoid robot, Manus-I, retails for $25,000 while the robot soccer system is marketed at $13,000. Robhatah also markets a biped research platform targeted at the research community dealing with biped and humanoid robotics.
Manus-I has carved a name for itself by winning the first places in International Humanoid Robot Competitions twice in a row. Organized by the Federation of International Robosoccer Association (FIRA), the competitions are dominated by Manus-I in 2003 (Austria), in 2004 (Korea) and in 2005 (Singapore).
More interesting and emerging trends related to service robots will be added to this site in due time. Do always come back to check them out!! Good day!!
References [1] Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (Service Robot) [2] Robotics Market [3] ISE Group of Companies - Smart Pump [4] FOE – Annual Report 2004/2005

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