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MR series robots

MR series maintenance robots

Maintenance Robots are, arguably, the single most common type of robot in the Frontier,[1] in use in assembly lines, public and private janitorial services and as unskilled manual labor.

Purpose

Maintenance robots do much more than just “clean areas, oil machines, watch for breakdowns and malfunctions”; A garage may have a maintenance robot programmed to maintain a fleet of vehicles in optimal operating parameters, changing any required fluids, keeping the parabattery fully charged, regulating air pressure in the tires and washing the vehicles. A janitorial robot can “wash and wax the floors of a building each night”, empty the trash bins, replace worn-out light fixtures and even dust and wipe the walls.

Though they cannot do actual repairs, maintenance robots can perform regular maintenance that falls within the parameters of their programming; the aforementioned garage robot (of sufficient level, see below) could (assuming modern day cars) perform a tune-up, oil change, axle greasing, fluid change, radiator flush, A/C gas change, charge/swap out batteries, check fuses, change wipers even rotate/change tires… provided that suitable parts are available, though if the robot is of sufficiently high level (i.e. 4, or a very tightly programmed 3), it might be possible to actually request the parts, or even buy them, if an account is accessible.

Description

They use standard bodies and are limited to levels 1 to 4. Since they are usually designed to be used indoors, most use a wheeled motive system, with mechanical legs coming in second. Very few are equipped with tracks and it is very unusual to see maintenance ‘bots with hover, rotor or rocket systems; most so equipped are custom units made to order.

It should be noted that very often, maintenance ‘bots are locked into tracks inside or outside a structure (such as would be the case of a window-washer robot outside a building, or a tracked guide along the ceiling). For these purposes, they are considered to have wheeled motive systems.

Level I Maintenance Robot

Level 1 Mainenance robot

Body shape follows function; box-like or drum-like units are common; janitorial ‘bots commonly include a built-in accessory cart and garbage bin to dispose of rubbish, window-washers tend to have fluid reservoirs or access to the building’s water system, but are built to blend in with a building’s architecture.[2] The vast majority of maintenance robots use the Standard body type, though most individual households that choose to have a janitorial robot (rather than a Service Robot) tend to choose Light body type units.

All commercially available maintenance robots come equipped with one pair of all-purpose manipulative limbs (i.e. “arms”) that may or may not fold into the body. Depending on robot level and function, these limbs may be anything from simple grasping clamps to fully functional “hands” capable of doing anything a living sentient can. Some models come with attachment points for additional limbs, but these invariably cost extra, particularly since additional limbs are most often specialized to fulfill the mission of the robot.

Description by Level

Maintenance robots are limited to levels 1 to 4; this is because level 5 and higher robots are too sophisticated for such manual labor; custom units may exist, but these are extraordinarily uncommon and used under the most specialized of circumstances.

Level 1

Level 1 maintenance robots can do only simple jobs. They are pre-programmed for some specific job and usually cannot do any other job. This programming is done by a roboticist or through a physical connection to a computer with the Robot Management program (this does not allow the computer to control the robot; it only provides basic programming) and either the Maintenance, Industry or Transportation programs, depending on the Mission and Functions of the robot.

Though they cannot communicate in any meaningful way, Level 1 robots may use pre-recorded messages to indicate current status (“Initiating”, “Low Power”, “Maintenance Routine Complete”) or warnings of approach (“Excuse me, sentient being; Janitorial Emergency, please allow me to pass through”) or even requests for assistance if, for example, something prevents it from fulfilling its Mission (such as being knocked over and unable to correct itself. Most maintenance ‘bots have a simple interface menu pad (commonly behind a panel) so that users may interact in a basic way with the robot, telling it for example, to delay activation for a few hours, or to immediately begin functions programmed for a later time.

Level 1 Maintenance robots have basic visual and auditory sensors and are capable of detecting obstacles in their path and react accordingly, for example, stopping before large objects, requesting people to move out of the way (though usually a big, flashing yellow light serves as enough warning) or, if the objects are small enough, clean them up.

Some Level 1 Maintenance robots may be programmed to follow a path on the floor; either static or controlled by a Robot Management Computer, either through a light pattern shined from the ceiling or through powered lines embedded/adhered to the floor. This allows a computer or Robot Brain to indirectly control the Level 1 robot, though the robot then counts against the program’s limit.

Examples of Level 1 Maintenance Robots:

  • A robot that washes and waxes all the floors of a building each night
  • A robot that washes and waxes the floor, monitors and reports light fixture/power outlet/fire detector status, dusts, cleans inside windows and buffs walls on a single floor of a building
  • A robot that washes all the windows of a building (or one side of a large building)
  • A robot that washes and waxes vehicles
  • A robot that washes/waxes, checks tire pressure, fluid levels, battery charge (plus charge if necessary), wiper status, engine status and (where applicable) fuel level (and top off, if necessary) on a single model of vehicle (Ex.: Streelcar Motor Co. “Comet” Groundcar, 51-63 model years)
  • A robot that cuts and sews garments based on pre-programmed patterns
  • A robot that welds door frames at a hovercar factory
  • A robot that paints a bridge 20 hours a day, 400 days a year
  • A self-moving cart following a pre-laid course through an office building or restaurant

Level 2

Level 2 maintenance robots are more sophisticated versions of Level 1 ‘bots and can handle several simple jobs or a fairly complicated single one.

Much like Level 1 ‘bots, they can communicate through pre-recorded messages, but have a wider repertoire that can be tailored to a wider array of situations. Additionally, a computer (or computer user) or a Robot Brain may communicate with other beings through the robot’s radio link (as well as “see” through its optical receptors).

Sensors are more capable in Level 2 units, incorporating sound and basic touch (sometimes smell, to detect gas leaks) and their decision-making ability is marginally better, so instead of stopping in front of a blocking object, if under certain parameters, the robot might go over or around it on its own, without contacting a higher controller.

They can receive and follow radio commands in binary machine language sent from some other machine, such as a robot brain or a computer. Often this means simply that the robot is actually a simple upgrade of a Level 1 Maintenance Robot capable of being reprogrammed or deployed by its electronic controller. As the difference in cost between a Level 1 and a Level 2 robot is only 300 Cr, most users with access to a computer opt for the Level 2 versions.

Examples of Level 2 Maintenance Robots:

  • A robot that washes and waxes the floor, monitors and reports light fixture/power outlet/fire detector status, dusts, cleans inside windows and buffs walls on all the floors of a building at night
  • A robot that washes all the windows of a building (or one side of a large building), checking window seals, external lights and monitoring material fatigue.
  • A robot that washes/waxes, checks tire pressure, fluid levels, battery charge (plus charge if necessary), wiper status, engine status and (where applicable) fuel level (and top off, if necessary) on an array of vehicles (hover vehicles or hover/ground trucks, etc…) – If it finds that fluids are low or additional items are needed, the controller can direct the robot to perform the job as well
  • A robot that cuts and sews garments, including zippers and buttons, based on several pre-programmed patterns
  • A robot that puts together transmission assemblies at a hovercar factory
  • A robot that paints and monitors the status/condition of a bridge 20 hours a day, 400 days a year
  • A self-moving cart moving through an office building or restaurant, making stops that have been requested by users through the computer and stopping at specific desks/tables to deliver items as assigned by other users through the computer.
  • A prospecting robot that pans gravel at a river and separates out flecks of gold.

Level 3

Level 3 maintenance robots can do significantly more complicated jobs. Their ability to communicate

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Underwater maintenance robot

verbally and follow spoken instructions provides ample opportunity to customize programming on the fly. Of course, if the verbal instructions disagree with the robot’s programming, it will ignore the orders. Like Level 2 robots, Level 3 robots may also be directed by a computer or Robot Brain.

Robots of this level are capable of performing highly complex tasks or many simple ones, but their decision-making capability is severely limited; for example, a car mechanic ‘bot will change the spark plugs on schedule or when required by a user or controller, but unless a spark plug has failed, it will not be replaced without user instruction.

Examples of Level 3 Maintenance Robots:

  • A robot that washes and waxes the floor, monitors and reports light fixture/power outlet/fire detector status, dusts, cleans inside windows, buffs walls, empties trash bins (replacing the bag), empties clothes hampers (taking dirty clothes to the laundry room, but not washing them) and places items in designated areas (books to the library, toys to the toybox, etc.).
  • A robot that washes/waxes, checks tire pressure, fluid levels (and top off, if necessary), battery charge (plus charge if necessary), wiper status, engine status and (where applicable) fuel level (and top off, if necessary) on an array of vehicles (ground vehicles or hover/ground cars, etc…).
  • As above, but performing routine maintenance (changing fuses, wipers, batteries, spark plugs, rotating/replacing tires/hoverfans, fanbelts, interior lights, etc…) on a single model type of vehicle.
  • A robot that takes measurements, cuts and sews garments, including zippers and buttons, based on a wide array of pre-programmed patterns, selected verbally by the user.
  • A self-moving cart moving through an office building or restaurant, responding to users verbally along its general route; going to a desk or table when called and delivering items to specific desks or tables along its route.
  • Farming Robots on Agricultural ships and Stations are Level 3 Maintenance 'bots.[3][4]

Level 4

Level 4 maintenance robots can act semi-independently. They are much like Level 3 robots, but with superior decision-making ability, for example, a cart-bot (described above) is summoned verbally by two users at the same time; the level 3 ‘bot will attend each in turn based on the path of its route: the closest one will be attended first, but a level 4 ‘bot may recognize one user as a higher ranking corporate officer and attend her first, even if she is further away. Likewise, a car-mechanic ‘bot may inspect the spark plugs of the car and replace any that show deterioration, even if still functional or not on schedule.

Examples of Level 4 Maintenance Robots:

  • A robot that washes and waxes the floor, monitors and reports light fixture/power outlet/fire detector status, dusts, cleans inside windows, buffs walls, empties trash bins (replacing the bag), empties clothes hampers; doing the laundry, then sorting, folding and putting away the clothes in the proper places,; places items in designated areas (books to the library, toys to the toybox, etc.), and sorts them correctly (books to their proper shelves, toys to each child’s proper toybox, etc.). Such a robot may pick up items it has not seen before from the floor and put them in a specific place for the owner to sort, recognizing that they are not garbage to be discarded to the rubbish bin.
  • A robot that washes/waxes, checks tire pressure, fluid levels (and top off, if necessary), battery charge (plus charge if necessary), wiper status, engine status and (where applicable) fuel level (and top off, if necessary) and performing routine maintenance (changing fuses, wipers, batteries, spark plugs, rotating/replacing tires/hoverfans, fanbelts, interior lights, etc…) on a wide array of vehicles (which must be programmed into the robot).
  • A robot that takes measurements, cuts and sews garments, including zippers and buttons, based on a wide array of pre-programmed patterns, selected verbally by the user as suggested by the robot based on current fashion trends, user body type and hair/skin complexion. It can even make a selection on its own (based on pre-programmed parameters) if asked to do so by the user.
  • A self-moving cart moving through a complex of several office buildings, responding to users verbally along its general route; going to a desk or table when called and delivering items to specific desks after calculating an efficient route to perform its tasks.

Notes & References

  1. A distinction contested by Service Robots and Security/Combat Robots.
  2. Star Wars’ Astromech and Power droids are good examples of maintenance robots, as are Silent Running’s Hewey, Dewey and Louie.
  3. One Farming Robot is required per ship hull point (10 robots per hull point on an Ag Station. Knight Hawks Expanded Rules pp. 20.
  4. On planetary surfaces, the role is taken by Heavy Duty Robots.

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