Robotics in general has been a fascination I’ve carried into adulthood. We were early adopters of the Roomba and have seen a few other things come and go over the years. So I was very interested in the Robotics part of the show at CES this year. Here’s a look at some of the neat robot-like devices already available at Best Buy, followed by some of the interesting robots that were shown at the recent Consumer Electronics Show—some may find their way to our homes in the future.
Best Buy 2018: What’s already out there
As I said, Robots have been a fascination of mine ever since I was young. I remember trying to convince my dad to build me a robot for my Grade 2 science fair project, figuring it was easy for an electrician to do. When I was in Grade 4 or 5, I nearly bought a Super Nintendo game called “Rise of the Robots” just because it involved robots. Considering it was one of the worst video games ever made, I did well to save my Christmas money. The age of robotics is no longer in the future. We’re living in it. If you’ve followed some of the reviews here at the blog over the last few months, you’ve no doubt seen some of the things already available to bring home, including one of my favorite companion robots which I’ll show you.
Robots with familiar faces
Perhaps the simplest form of what you could call a “robot” that’s available now are drones or droids that cruise around your home. They can pass hours of time, do really cool things like play games, or just plain play patrol. Perhaps the best known and most easily identifiable of these are Sphero’s line of Star Wars Droids. These blend the element of function and cool, capable of playing all sorts of games and even watching the Star Wars movies with you and interacting along.
Robots that play and teach
There’s been a huge movement for robots geared towards kids the past couple years and introducing them to the world of STEM (Science, Tech, Engineering and Math.) In fact, if you look at the majority of traditional looking robots available at Best Buy right now, many of them come out of the box with apps that teach your kids very basic coding and instruction for movement.
My absolute favourite thing on the planet right now (and something that would be in my home if my daughter were a bit older to enjoy it to the fullest) is Anki’s Cozmo. Cozmo will forever hold a soft spot in my heart for being the first little robot my toddler fell in love with. He’s cheery and full of life. He’s capable of facial recognition, playing games, has very basic coding capabilities for kids, and enjoys interacting with your entire family. He can speak basic commands when you ask him to and has a little personality capable of big things. Cozmo is probably the best option to introduce kids 8 and up to what robots are capable of as the massive and comprehensive app has enough to keep them busy for weeks on end. Get accustomed to Cozmo with a review I did a couple months back.
For the more advanced tastes, robots like the UBTECH Alpha 1Pro Humanoid Robot bring another level to the table. 1Pro is capable of moving 180 degrees while dancing, playing games, and even streaming music or audio. 1Pro is even said to help build cognitive skills while being a great source of fun. It’s a little bit more on the costly side though, so it’s definitely for more serious enthusiasts.
There are a lot of other robots that introduce kids to STEM too, like Dash and Dot. Meccano even has kits where your child can build and rebuild their own robot companions that can interact and speak with them. What an exciting time for kids!
Robots that clean
Arguably the most practical and perhaps best known robotic helpers for your home right now are robotic vacuums. It’s been about 15 years since the first Roomba hit homes, and with seven generations of vacuuming and mopping floors, it’s become a name synonymous with modern day home robotics. Nowadays, you can still go with the traditional Roomba models, or you can even connect with Wi-Fi if that’s your preference. There are also some new competitors in the form of Neato’s Botvac and the Samsung POWERbot VR7010 Slim Robot Vacuum. Even Dyson has entered the fray with its daunting and powerful 360 Eye Robot Vacuum, which I’m currently eyeing (no pun intended) for our home.
Robot vacuums can do a lot for your home besides saving you a couple hours on the weekend. Robot vacuums will freely get under tables and vacuum around the areas that you can’t always bring a stick vacuum into and have also been known to help reduce allergens in the home too with regular cleaning sessions.
CES 2018: What was interesting in show
Robots in the home start with Kuri, nearly ready for launch after its reveal last year. Kuri is a larger than normal robot (a couple feet tall) on wheels that interacts and beeps and boops throughout your household. Kuri uses sensors in her bottom half that allows her to map out the environment around her so that she can intelligently move around objects.
She comes with an HD camera and can interact with you in real time on your phone to advise you of any odd movements in the home, keep an eye on your animals, and even tell you who’s come home (she comes with facial recognition capabilities.) Bluetooth speakers allow you to play all of your favourite music (and have her follow you around the house so you can always listen.) Then, with touch sensors built into her head, you can even pet her for a job well done and ask her to return to her dock to charge for the next day. Kuri doesn’t do stairs like most of today’s bots, but she’s definitely destined to be a good companion around the house when she eventually releases later this spring.
The LG CLOi is interesting (and one that’s likelier to be the type of thing you see in smart homes within the next couple years over the Kuri), and unfortunate CES demo aside, has the type of potential you expect a smaller bot to have in commandeering your home automation needs. It’ll be able to interact with your appliances and you too, helping feed you the odd piece of information or firing you schedule reminders. No release date is known yet.
Finally, I have to throw a mention for the Aeolus Robot in, even though I’m not sure if it will come to Canada anytime soon. While it’s likely to be a costly one, Aeolus is the first step in placing Rosie from the Jetsons in all of our homes. It remains to be seen whether it will refer to me as “Mr. J” (and a release date isn’t clear), but it will be able to clean your floors and pick up and tidy basic objects.
While I think the time for a real life Rosie is still years, if not a decade or two away, it’s a clear indication that we’re starting to move into the next phase of home based robots, and that perhaps the next generation will get to enjoy what we only dreamed of all those years ago.
With constant growth in smart tech, 2018 will be an exciting year for robotics enthusiasts like myself. I am sure the Best Buy blog will be filled with features and reviews to keep you up to date on the latest and the greatest. What robot are you waiting for? What kind of robot would you be interested in bringing home? Tell us in the comments.