Soon the days of cleaning up after your child’s pet or listening to the barking of your neighbors dog will come to an end. A day is quickly approaching where children may no longer ask for a puppy or a kitten, but for their very own robot. The past decade has seen leaps and bound in innovation in the area of consumer robotics and certain companies have made it their mission to get a robotic companion into your home. These electronic family members will be far more advanced than that old Poo-Chi or Robosapien gathering dust in the attic. The robots of tomorrow will get to know you and your family, interact with you on a day to day basis, and perform a host of other tasks as well.
Arguably one of the most popular robots of the bunch is Jibo. Advertised as a companion for the whole family, Jibo is capable of not only conversing with his owners, but also playing with children, and providing smart home solutions. Created by Dr. Cynthia Breazeal, Jibo Is a small stationary unit with a rotating “head”, whose face is an LED screen. In an early video put together in order to raise awareness to the project, Jibo can be seen receiving text reminders, placing fast food orders, turning off lights, and reading children bedtime stories. This small friendly aluminum unit is also capable of facial recognition and capturing both video and taking still photos simultaneously, and can even be used for video chat. According to the official site, Jibo is set to begin shipping this holiday season!
Another robotic companion who seems ripped off of the silver screen is Pepper. This 4 foot tall, freewheeling Android comes to us from Aldebaran Group, a robotics company whose vision is to incorporate robotics into our daily lives. Pepper is specifically designed to live with humans, and is said to be able to live autonomously. Not only is he capable of facial recognition, but he is also able to understand human emotion and react accordingly. Touted as a uniquely friendly robot, Pepper will attempt to meet new humans, entertain them and befriend them. With a constant internet uplink, there will be an endless amount of new tricks up his sleeve.
Robotbase’s entry into the robotics ring isn’t all that creatively named, but it’s product is no less impressive. The Personal Robot is able to wheel around your home or office, access the internet at all times, help schedule your life, and has facial recognition and security capabilities. The personal Robot is also able to help control energy systems in your home and help cut costs. As another autonomous robot, the Personal Robot seeks to help in every area of the owner’s life.
But robots are not only bound to the ground, companions of the future will also take to the skies. Drones such as Airdog and Hexo+ are smart drones. These miniature quadcopters follow their owners from above, both capturing video and taking stills. Drones with smart tracking such as these have attracted action sports junkies and filmmakers. Perhaps with developments in technology, more internal components such as those seen in Jibo and Pepper will be light enough to incorporate onto flying companions.
What implications will such companions have on our daily lives? While these innovations are surely exciting and impressive, are constantly connected cameras and microphones necessarily a good thing? How comfortable are we with companions that store data about our emotions, tendencies, likes and dislikes. Many people feel that cellphones and other handhelds have made humans too reliant on technology, I mean how many phone numbers do you remember off the top of your head anymore? If we simply had to ask a machine to do everything for us, where would that take us?