Yesterday LG’s marketing director hit the headlines for the wrong reasons when his CES presentation of home robot Cloi went horribly wrong. After a promising start where the robot, pronounced kloh-ee, answered a number of queries and interacted with kitchen appliances, it stopped working, turning the presentation into cringe-worthy viewing that many have described as “disastrous”.
David VanderWaal, LG’s US marketing chief, attempted to make light of the situation, saying “Cloi doesn’t like me evidently”, but the incident will likely prompt many declarations that home robots are not yet ready for the mass market.
But looking at the wider spectrum of product unveilings at this year’s CES, it’s clear that home robots are making a move on the mass market in a big way, in many forms and for many applications. And if that translates into the product launches being promised, this coming Christmas could be dominated by robotic gifts.
LG isn’t the only company offering humanoid home robots. Today also saw the launch of the Aeolus Robot, a multifunctional robot complete with an arm that – at least in theory – allows it to perform tedious household tasks such as vacuuming, mopping and tidying away items.
Integrated with Amazon Alexa and Google home, the robot has the ability to move freely around your home, and can recognise thousands of items and remember where it last saw them, meaning it should be able to help you find your missing keys. Helpfully, it can also map your home’s layout and identify individual family members.
“Costing less than a family vacation overseas, the Aeolus Robot makes the dream of having a home robot a reality and frees up valuable time for you to do the things you want to do,” said Alexander Huang, Global CEO of Aeolus Robotics.
While Aeolus seems set to realise the home robot Jetsons dream, there are also a number of pseudo humanoid home robots with a similar form factor to LG’s Cloi. Indian startup Emotix, for example, announced the rollout of its child-focused companion robot Miko+ to the US market last week, which has a similarly compact and cute appearance, but is focused on providing learning and play experiences to growing children.
“Through extensive research and observation, we found that current generations of social robots did not address the unmet needs of parents to foster closer interactions between family members as well as integrating their involvement in their children’s learning and development process, “ said Sneh Vaswani, CEO and founder of emotix.
“We understood this conundrum facing parents and wanted to develop a social robot that would provide benefits to them on a number of levels, giving children a technology interface that becomes a strong value addition to and not a substitute for the family unit, and that also enables parents to actively participate in their child’s developmental education.”
Not all home robots attempt to mimic the human form. ShadeCraft, for example, has announced that it is releasing its robotic garden umbrella, Sunflower, to market this year. Charged by the sun and equipped with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, the umbrella is designed to create a Wi-Fi hotspot in your garden while tracking and responding to the sun to keep you in the shade. It also comes equipped with speakers, sensors and voice interaction, allowing you to provide audio for parties, monitor air quality, weather conditions and security and give voice commands.
“We felt that in order to introduce consumers to the concept of robotic objects co-existing in their environment, we needed to establish an identifiable and iconic object,” said Armen Gharabegian, CEO and founder of ShadeCraft.
“Although we have developed a whole series of robotic solutions for shade and other functions, with more to be announced in the near future, we believed that Sunflower meets the customers’ needs and desires.”
As with any CES, not all of the robots on show will make it to the physical and virtual shop shelves, with some undoubtedly destined to become vaporware.
However, with so many announcements being made in the home robotics space, it’s clear that technology is definitely moving us towards a world where having robots that help you in your daily lives is commonplace.
And with so many of us dreaming of home robots for so long, if they can deliver on their promises they are likely to prove hugely successful.