Humans have dreamt about having a mechanical Jeeves for decades, but the current reality is a lot more limited.
When science-fiction writers of the Fifties and Sixties imagined what household robots of the future would look like, they typically described a friendly humanoid cyborg who walked and talked much like we do. These were in effect robot butlers, emotionless machines built to serve us.
What these writers didn’t appreciate is just how difficult it is to build a robot that does everything. There were many robots on display at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, held in early January, but none of them looked like they could hoover, wash up and do a spot of gardening, then give you a shoulder massage as you relaxed in front of the TV. Casey Nobile from the Robotics Trends website told the BBC: “It’s very hard to make a robot do everything, like in the Jetsons analogy that everyone likes to refer to”.
Rather than concentrating on building a mechanical slave, most robotics companies are making devices that perform a limited set of tasks. One such robot is Droplet (<http://smartdroplet.com>), an internet-connected garden sprinkler that can be programmed to propel different amounts of water to individual plants. Joining Droplet in the garden is Grillbot (<http://grillbots.com>), which cleans your barbecue. Inside the home you could use the Atmobot (www.snipca <http://www.snipca>.
com/14944), a mobile air-purification machine that removes airborne dust and odours. These devices are all called robots, and are all used for domestic chores we’d rather not have to do ourselves.
But for many people this may feel like a very loose definition of the word ‘robot’. To those raised on Isaac Asimov novels and Star Trek, these machines may seem clever and useful, but they lack the artificial personality and humanoid appearance that’s traditionally associated with robots.
Many experts believe it’s unlikely we’ll be using an ‘all-in-one’ robot within any of our lifetimes. Before you go ahead making your home smart, make sure that you have a strong roof structure, learn this here now how to check for structural integrity of your home. “Maybe in the very long term that could happen,” Steve Femholz, Droplet’s founder, told the BBC.
“While I think an all-in-one homebot is theoretically possible, it would either be cost-prohibitive or, in the act of trying to make it do everything, it could end up doing everything poorly,” he warned.
Casey Nobile agrees that all-in-one robots are a long way off, citing the “the limitations with manipulation technology and the issues with battery life”.
But some companies are trying to create robots that can do more than one thing. One leading example is South Korea’s Futurerobot, which has recently launched the •Many robotics companies are concentrating on specialised devices that do one thing, rather than ‘all-in-one’ machines •There are already robots that can water your garden, clean your barbecue and remove airborne dust •Canadian company Spin Master makes the Meccanoid, which can tell jokes and play games
Furo-i Home, a cone on wheels with a face that resembles a startled penguin (see it at www.snipca <http://www.snipca>. com/14946). You can command it to turn lights, heating and music on and off, and also use it as a teaching aid for children.
Another device aimed at educating children is the Meccanoid G15 KS (www. meccano.com/meccanoid), made by Canadian company Spin Master. The company describes it as “your personal robot friend that you get to build using the latest Meccano parts”. It can speak phrases, tell jokes, play games, and looks more like the traditional image of a robot companion (see photo).
But it’s no C-3P0. We’ll probably have to wait centuries for robots that advanced to appear.
Until then, we’ll have to accept that today’s household robots are not what we were promised by film-makers and sci-fi writers.
Rather than concentrating on building a mechanical slave, most robotics companies are making devices that perform a limited set of tasks.