Spotlight: Singapore rolls out singing, rapping cleaning robots to fight labour crunch

Source: Xinhua| 2019-07-17 22:54:02|Editor: yan
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SINGAPORE, July 17 (Xinhua) -- People in Singapore will soon be greeted by 300 autonomous cleaning robots that can sing and rap and interact with people while cleaning the city-state.

Launched by Singaporean firm LionsBot International (LionsBot) at Gardens by the Bay in Singapore on Wednesday, the robots will be progressively rolled out from Wednesday, starting with Jewel Changi Airport, National Gallery Singapore and Resorts World Sentosa. These robots will be fully deployed by six cleaning partners by March 2020.

LionsBot bills itself as the world's first company to offer cleaning robots for rental, eliminating the need to invest in ownership and maintenance.

The firm has developed 13 different models of cleaning robots that are able to scrub, mop, vacuum, sweep, shine and even transport cleaning equipment of up to 450 kilograms and can be used both indoors and outdoors.

One of its robot series is the LeoBots Family, where the nimble LeoBot is able to clean tight corridor spaces, doorways and has a tight turning radius to navigate obstacles.

Meanwhile, its other robot counterparts can move across wide open spaces like shopping mall atriums or traverse outdoor terrain, climb up ramps and travel over speed humps with ease.

In fact, LionsBot's robots even come with their own unique personality to interact with people, such as conversing in different languages, winking at people who walk past and even cracking jokes. By scanning a QR code on the robot, the public can also pepper the robot with questions to find out their name and the cleaning function that they perform.

Led by a husband-and-wife team, Dylan Ng and Michelle Seow, the idea of LionsBot was sparked as a result of the labour crunch problem in the cleaning industry. They have been managing SuperSteam Asia Pacific, a cleaning equipment and chemicals supplier since 2002.

While Ng and Seow had tried many existing robotics solutions in the market, it was a complicated undertaking and they could not manage to find the right one. "This led us to dream about building our own cleaning robot workforce," said Ng, the firm's co-founder.

Tapping on Mohan's research expertise in robotics, it led to the development of the autonomous cleaning robots.

LionsBot unique technology includes features such as a live mapping feature so that it can get a rich context of its space and surroundings, precision sensors to avoid objects and detect humans, and safety bumpers that cause the robots to come to a stop if it ever comes into contact with an object.

Its cleaning robots can also work together as a team, where multiple robots can coordinate and clean a given area at the same time. They may also take different cleaning routes each day as they are constantly learning and calculating the most efficient way to clean a given space.

These robots can be rented out at monthly fees ranging from 1,350 to 2,150 Singapore dollars (about 1,000 to 1,600 U.S. dollars) to cleaning companies and building owners. LionsBot said its robots use up to 70 percent less water as compared to existing cleaning solutions.

Speaking at the launch, Koh Poh Koon, senior minister of State with the Ministry of Trade and Industry, said that robotics and automation is an important enabler for industry transformation and is needed to enhance competitiveness, especially when Singapore grapples with an ageing workforce. It can also reduce the error rate of "manual and repetitive" tasks, he added.

In Singapore, robotics solutions are being deployed in sectors like logistics, land transport and cleaning.

"Cleaning robots can help to ease the workload of the cleaning staff and free up time for more higher value-added duties such as supervision, operation and maintenance of these robots," said Koh.

To further boost cleaners' skills, LionsBot has set up a training academy where cleaners undergo a six-hour training program on the use of the robots. LionsBot has also developed a mobile application that rewards cleaners based on how well they operate and maintain the robots.