Willow Garage, a group of 'bot builders who see "personal robots as the next paradigm shifting personal productivity tool for mankind," are working toward that end by developing robots that are unobtrusive and self-maintaining. One such robot is the PR2, which Willow Garage is teaching to locate power outlets to plug into, all inside a bustling office:
For Milestone 2, our tester designated ten different outlets that the robot was required to plug into, although only nine of the selected outlets were physically reachable. The robot was expected to successfully detect that one of its ten goal outlets was behind a locked door, abort that effort, and move on to its next outlet. The rest of the doors were placed in various states of closed, partially opened, and fully open.PR2 managed to open doors that were closed, pass through ones that were open and skip the ones that were locked. Working its plug into an outlet takes a little bit of work (it just keeps stabbing at the wall until it can fit it in), though the 'bot's arm is surprisingly gentle and precise.
It's all part of Willow Garage's ROS software (or Robot Operating System), which is an open source package of directives that mean that, rather than just working on one robot, the group can take what they learn and apply it to other 'bots as well. Check below to see PR2 go hunting for some outlets.