I’ve already purchased, installed, and used several types of service robots, so here is a list of my own practical experience.
Service robots are simply not produced in Finland must therefore rely on the import. The importer are still a small number, because robotics is still so new business. If you forget the robot vacuum cleaners and robot mowers (they are sold in many stores), is quite a bit of other service robots, which can be purchased from Finnish store. This also partly explains why it is always the same Nao, Zora and Paro robots are featured in the media. These can be found in Finnish sellers. Other robots is just not even available at the shop. Why then, however, the robots are usually bought Finnish stores? It’s easy, successful payment by invoice and warranty works. For these reasons, companies and public institutions act in that way. When buying from abroad, payment is usually only either a credit card or Paypal account. These payment methods are somewhat of a challenge for businesses and the public sector
The situation in Europe or anywhere else in the world is not better in terms of service robots sellers. Sellers are few and many of the manufacturers or stores do not even sell to Europe. This limit further spread of robots in Finland.
I’ve bought so far 10 different types of service robots, list them here briefly. I have bought four robots to work place, method of payment is by invoice in three cases and one robot I paid through Paypal. Nao (seller importer Robomaa), Robbo (seller Robbo manufacturer) and Justocat (seller manufacturer Robyn Robotics AB) robots came with invoice. Twinbot (seller shop fun-components) robot I paid through Paypal. I have bought six robots to home, method of payment either by credit card or Paypal. Padbot (seller Aliexpress) is the only one that is already in use. Alpha-2, Aido, Buddy, Antbo robots are all financed by crowdfunding.
The success of the crowdfunding is uncertain and if it is successful, how and when the robot will be completed and delivered to the customer. If Paypal stops support to crowdfunding in 7/2016, buyer may in the future , in the worst case, lose altogether the money paid in advance, if crowdfunding fails. Product / service to be paid in these crowdfunding cases up to two years in advance, the year is quite normal. The advantage is about half a cheaper price compared to the price of trade. Cowarobott was a different case, the manufacturer wants $ 50 payment to ensure the number of buyers in advance of crowdfunding. However,it is clear that most of new service robots will be developed with crowdfunding.
Robots are fairly expensive equipment, so that they should be ordered from Europe, if you want to avoid customs fees and extra taxes. The transport price must be added to the fares, for example. Finland receiving goods from China often free of charge, and on the other hand, say, from the United States, transport costs could be hundreds of dollars. You should always calculate precisely the total cost before the final purchasing decision. You should also always make a comparison with the sellers, the price differences for the same product of different vendors can be large.
Delivery times vary quite a lot, usually a week from Europe, two weeks – one month is the standard delivery time for example, from China or from the United States.
Warranty is one issue to consider. Robots are normal electronic devices, so they have normal warranties. However, you should verify before buying, if there’s something warranty conditions. Personally, I have determined so that the service robot must take a certain period of time and then it is a waste.
A related issue is that the robot technology is updated so quickly that, if such a price is less than ten thousand euros robot lasts for one year, can be considered as sufficiently useful and worth getting. Of course, this does not apply to robots in the home, in which it must operate for much longer. Prices become cheaper all the time, so that the duration of the equipment, however, is no longer a problem point. These 10,000 €-rate service robots will soon be only 2000 € price.
The following paragraphs relate only robots that we already have. They also appear in the image below.
When the robot is then extracted from the box, the first step is to put the device to charge. Depending on the size of the battery is charged from two hours to half a day. After this, the assembly of equipment varies greatly. E.g. Twinbot -telepresence robot assembly requires tools. No other robots needed tools for setup phase. Next, adjust the settings. When Justocat (which in my opinion is not even a robot) does not require anything other than immediately to heavy use, Nao robot can be programmed in Python language with endless new functions.If you do not want to program the Nao robot, it can also be used with simple graphical ways that are Ghoregraphe program from Aldebaran which is Nao robot manufacturer and also the importer Robomaa has an easy to use web based system. Robbo is a robot for programming, so it too has simple graphical Scratch program, or in a demanding form of C ++ based programming possibility. Telepresence robots Padbot and Twinbot operate in either a Web browser or the stand-alone application and both use cloud service to logins.
Pretty much know-how must be that these robots can be used. Only Justocat does not require any expertise. Other robots require information networks (landline, crossover, or WLAN connection), Bluetooth on / off and username / password combination etc. Quite a many moving parts. Robbo may be connected to a computer either via USB or via Bluetooth. Padbot uses own application, which works on Android or Apple devices (phone or tablet) but always requires both devices to log in to the network. Twinbot connection works on your computer using a Web browser but also requires both the devices connect to the Internet. Nao robot can be connected to either a crossover cable directly to the computer without a network, a wired network, or a WLAN, which is based on only a simple password to use. All the complex username / password combinations should be forgotten. These different types of coupling allow for different characteristics and applications. The best choice is a WLAN, because then there is no need for cables and all move operations will succeed. The latest software update also allows for tablet use.
All our service robots are challenging in different demonstrations. Each time the devices are turned off, they can next time start up unexpectedly, and almost always in a different way than the previous time. For this reason, I am not willing to give (at least not yet) robots to other people without the included close support.
The biggest challenges for service robots in addition to the above-mentioned are battery technology and networks. Batteries last only an hour minimum (Nao and movement), the longest one day (Padbot with little movement and tablet device not charging battery from the robot). Batteries require more power before service robots can operate effectively on their own. In none of the available robots has automatic charging, padbot robot can be driven remotely on the charging station and the battery status is also displayed remotely. But it requires that the remote user to follow the battery bars on the screen. Future service robots are equipped with automatic charging possibilities available, at least at extra cost.
Data networks, either a local area network or a data network affecting a lot of these service robots activities. At one place network connection works even through the phone’s data connection sharing but, at worst, 4G or WLAN connection speed is not enough for example. video conference with telepresence robot. I have tried sometimes Nao- or Padbot robot with two different operator and two phones data connection sharing, WLAN and a wired network connection and nothing worked well enough.In this case, will have to declare that the use of a robot does not succeed and then shift to the theoretical presentation and viewing images. This needs humor, thus also advancing the good news of robotics.