Service Robots

Definition of Service Robots

In a joint effort started in 1995 the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and IFR engaged in working out a preliminary service robot definition and classification scheme, which has been absorbed by the current ISO Technical Committee 184/Subcommittee 2 resulting in a novel ISO-Standard 8373 which had become effective in 20121.  A preliminary extract of the relevant definitions is given here:

  • A robot is an actuated mechanism programmable in two or more axes with a degree of autonomy, moving within its environment, to perform intended tasks. Autonomy in this context means the ability to perform intended tasks based on current state and sensing, without human intervention.
  • A service robot is a robot that performs useful tasks for humans or equipment excluding industrial automation application. Note: The classification of a robot into industrial robot or service robot is done according to its intended application.
  • A personal service robot or a service robot for personal use is a service robot used for a non-commercial task, usually by lay persons. Examples are domestic servant robot, automated wheelchair, personal mobility assist robot, and pet exercising robot.
  • A professional service robot or a service robot for professional use is a service robot used for a commercial task, usually operated by a properly trained operator. Examples are cleaning robot for public places, delivery robot in offices or hospitals, fire-fighting robot, rehabilitation robot and surgery robot in hospitals. In this context an operator is a person designated to start, monitor and stop the intended operation of a robot or a robot system.

A robot system is a system comprising robot(s), end-effector(s) and any machinery, equipment, devices, or sensors supporting the robot performing its task.

Please note: According to the definition, "a degree of autonomy" is required for service robots ranging from partial autonomy (including human robot interaction) to full autonomy (without active human robot intervention). Therefore, in addition to fully autonomous systems service robot statistics include systems, which may also be based on some degree of human robot interaction or even full tele-operation. In this context human robot-interaction means information and action exchanges between human and robot to perform a task by means of a user interface.

With this definition, manipulating industrial robots (which can be either fixed in place or mobile) could also be regarded as service robots, provided they are installed in non-manufacturing operations. Service robots may or may not be equipped with an arm structure as is case with some industrial robots. Often, but not always, service robots are mobile.

In some cases, service robots consist of a mobile platform on which one or several arms are attached and controlled in the same mode as the arms of industrial robot. Furthermore, contrary to their industrial counterparts, service robots do not have to be fully automatic or autonomous. In many cases these machines may even assist a human user or be tele-operated.

Due to their multitude of forms and structures as well as application areas, service robots are not easy to define.


1 ISO 8373:2012 Robots and robotic devices - Vocabulary