For those who remember Rosie the Robot from The Jetsons, Robby the Robot from the 1956 film Forbidden Planet, or “Robot” from Lost in Space (“Danger, Will Robinson!”), people have hoped that personal service robots would someday be a part of everyday life at home.
We’re getting there. Several companies have personal robots in the development stages — or even available — that will put intelligent, interactive, and helpful service devices into the home that will be of real use instead of being just a toy. These robots don’t yet have arms and they are not humanoid, but they are designed to integrate programming and artificial intelligence into their functions that make them of real use and much smarter than examples we’ve seen before.
Several of these robots were showcased at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) that concluded in Las Vegas earlier this year. Some had rather limited functions, like the Grillbot that cleans grates in a gas grille using a program that makes sure the whole grill is covered, or the Droplet, which is programmed to water plants with the right amount of water in different locations in a garden.
A more intelligent and versatile service robot that appeared at CES is the diminutive FURo-i Home. “The robot has many sensors, facial recognition and can detect the temperature,” said chief executive of its maker Futurebot, Se-Kyong Song.
Even more, he continued, “You can set it to wake up an elderly parent, remind them to take their medicine, eat breakfast and follow the rest of a schedule. And if something unexpected happens, it can send a message to the family saying there might be a problem and then let them talk to their parent via video chat to ask if they are OK.”
FURo-i Home can move through the house so you can keep an eye on the kids, or allow you to speak with them to see what they’re up to. It will also plan your daily schedule, set alarms, and control house functions from your smartphone such as lighting, TVs, music, etc.
Futurebot indicated they have the FURo-i Home available for sale for around $1,200.
Another amazing robot is being developed by Robotbase. This company’s robot can recognize facial expressions and emotions. It can move through the house avoiding objects in its way, respond to requests, learn your preferences, play music, or inform you of the news. It can also assist with home security by recording video around the house.
The key to Robotbase’s robot function is the artificial intelligence that is built in. The robot uses a “deep learning” approach that is intended to help the robot learn by mimicking the way the brain learns to recognize objects and ideas, based on comparisons to prior exposures to similar objects or ideas. The robot uses this ability to recognize faces, and learn about its owners and their preferences.
The Android operating system runs the robot, and it is being developed so that third parties will be able to design apps to modify or add to the functionality. It is expected to cost between $1,500 and $2,000.
Duy Huynh, the founder of Robotbase, said, “Twenty years ago, personal computers came along and changed everything. Ten years ago, we had the smartphone.”
“We look at our product as the next device after the computer and the smartphone.”
These robots probably do not completely fulfill our dreams to have a companion and helper around the house, and may not all be able to pick up and move items, feed the dog, clean the bathroom, and do all the tasks people want to be freed from. They are, however, the first real steps in the development of service robot companions with artificial intelligence that can learn, interact, and serve some very useful functions around the house. As artificial intelligence continues to develop, we may very well have walking, talking, intelligent robotic companions that are as normal a part of our households as televisions or laptops.
[Featured Image Source: Robotbase]