The Robots are Coming
You may not own a home robot yet, but that day may be just around the corner.
2015 promises to be a milestone year for robotics. Capable of doing everything from cleaning your floor to playing beer pong, robots are poised to take a substantial step into the home front, at long last making life a bit more like what The Jetsons showed us it would be. Some of these robots have already appeared on late night talk shows, and at least one is building a following on Indiegogo.
“Atlas” the anthropomorphic robot from Boston Dynamics is a 6’2”, 345-lb humanoid robot with an uncanny resemblance to The Terminator. Completely wireless, Atlas demonstrates impressive resilience and dexterity. It can see its own hands in motion for operating feedback, has a wrist that allows it to turn door handles, and a router in its head for untethered communication. We’re not entirely sure what else Atlas does besides walk around and open doors, but we’d rather not be left alone with it at night.
Considerably less intimidating, “Jibo” is perhaps the most domestically appealing robot model in the offing. Already the most successful technology campaign on Indiegogo, Jibo is being marketed as the “first family robot.” Friendly, helpful and intelligent, Jibo is in a category referred to as “social robots” - robots designed to work and “live” alongside humans. Technically, Jibo is a desktop model and looks like a cross between a speaker and Wall-E’s “EV.” It plugs into a standard AC outlet, has an 11.5-inch body and a round head with a flat-front 5.7-inch touch screen. The design is minimal, but the effect is considerably more impressive once Jibo is activated. Ask Jibo to introduce himself, and the face lights up, the body swivels around to face you and the screen blinks while responding, “Hi, my name is Jibo” in a pleasant male voice. “He” then shows off some dance moves, and demonstrates how his “eye” turns into a camera lens, all the while explaining how he can capture and share “special moments” via camera and video. Or perhaps you’d like to hear a story. Jibo can tell you the story of, say, the three little pigs, while the screen displays story images, which he accentuates with expressive body animation. The little guy has touch sensors on his head, so go ahead and give him a pat. He can also hear and tell where sound is coming from, so you can count on him always facing you when you talk to him. Sound like the beginning of a long-lasting relationship? This smart little home companion is expected to retail for $499. While not scheduled to be available until 2016, if preorders are any indication, Jibo will be getting around quite a bit. Here’s a look at what you can expect from him.
A more basic level of social robot includes the "Versaball" gripper from Empire Robotics. Versaball can not only handle objects, but can also grip and throw balls accurately enough to compete with a human opponent. Recently on “The Tonight Show” host Jimmy Fallon played beer pong against the Versaball Gripper in an impressively close game. See what happens:
Jimmy Falon VS. Beer Pong Robot: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ijjDCaVYfjc
While these are just three of many models in development, no matter what kind kind of robot you ultimately decide is right for you, shopping for one is going to be a lot of fun.