Service robots and automation for the disabled/limited
The increasing number of elderly people is resulting in increased demand for new solutions to support self-initiative and independent life. Robotics and automation technologies, initially applied in industrial environments only, are starting to move into our everyday lives to provide support and enhance the quality of our lives. This chapter analyzes the needs of disabled or limited persons and discusses possible tasks of new assistive service robots. It further gives an overview of existing solutions available as prototypes or products. Existing technologies to assist disabled or limited persons can be grouped into stand-alone devices operated by the user explicitly such as robotic walkers, wheelchairs, guidance robots or manipulation aids, and wearable devices that are attached to the user and operated implicitly by measuring the desired limb motion of the user such as in orthoses, exoskeletons or prostheses. Two recent developments are discussed in detail as application examples: the robotic home assistant Care-O-bot and the bionic robotic arm ISELLA. One of the most important challenges for future developments is to reduce costs in order to make assistive technologies available to everybody. On the technological side, user interfaces need to be designed that allow the use of the machines even by persons who have no technical knowledge and that enable new tasks to be taught to assistive robots without much effort. Finally, safe manipulation of assistive robots among humans must be guaranteed by new sensors and corresponding safety standards.