How service robots have been tackling COVID-19 in buildings?

We can see multiple videos spreading online about service robots that are moving around in buildings using disinfectant or UV light for disinfection. COVID-19 has motivated us all to look for all possible solutions to tackle this tedious situation and to keep businesses and society running.


However, there is so much more to service robots than merely disinfection. They can enhance safe behavior, e.g. social distancing, and help us to live more contactless and remote, yet happy life. Here, we present three ways service robots have tackled COVID-19:

Smooth and resilient services – What is the role of automation in COVID-19?

COVID-19 has forced service providers to modify their services rapidly to limit human contacts. Robots have helped social distancing e.g. with the increased popularity of contactless deliveries. Earlier developed robots for automated cleaning, has proven to be beneficial also during the pandemic. The less employees of service providers will be present in buildings the more space and social distance for others! Even more services can be automated, but another question is do we want to automate them. Sometimes we want personal service and nice customer experience from a waiter in a restaurant.


Changing people’s behavior – Can robots make us behave more safely?

Solutions already exist for analyzing people flows, and counting people and their distances. Robots can ensure social distancing by kindly reminding people of safety distances and guiding them to less crowded spaces e.g. at the airport. Robots identify use of masks and remind people to use them. Many hospitals around the world use service robots for providing remote medical care. In the future, robots could collect groceries from many stores and take them to a pickup point where consumer picks them up, decreasing the need for unnecessary moving around in a shopping mall.

Safe and attractive buildings – Can robots also be fun and inviting?

We have now seen robots in disinfection, service automation and inspecting use of masks. These all makes it safer to use buildings. However, how about if robots could also provide a better experience for people staying in and visiting a building – e.g. a shopping mall or an airport. Robots could play with children, create a feeling of safety and inquire customer satisfaction in a contactless way by discussion.

Robots are not only disinfecting and inspecting safe behaviour but also increasing attractiveness of the building – feeling of safety and fun!


Taru Hakanen

Research Team Leader, Human-robot-mixed reality solutions

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd


Maaria Nuutinen

Senior Principal Scientist, Business, innovation and foresight

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd


Maarit Halttunen

Research Scientist, Future Consumer Research

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd