Robots are marching into homes

Nov 16, 2012 by Jon Swartz

The mechanical march of robots into consumers' lives is slowly picking up pace. In recent weeks, a handful of companies have trotted out robotic devices to do everything from chasing the family cat to dream painting. One of them, or perhaps something on the horizon, could jump-start a nascent market.

"Everyone is looking for the next (Sony) Aibo," said tech analyst , referring to the popular pet robot in Japan that was discontinued in 2006. "The potential is in the billions for the right product."

ABI Research predicts sales will pass $15 billion by 2015.

Driving the growth: Cheap, powerful cameras, advanced sensors and other electronics now form the foundation of robotics projects.

In the 1990s, technology was pricey and limited to industrial settings where large companies could afford to make the necessary investments. Robots have mostly been used by automakers and semiconductor firms to produce goods in high volume. They're also in vogue at some warehouses.

Home, however, is where the richest opportunity may reside. Several companies have recently weighed in with products and services:

-Bossa Nova Robotics announced Ballbot, a platform for developers to create personal robots that interact with people. Conceivably, this could lead to something like a robot maid modeled after "The Jetsons" Rosie for less than $5,000.

"It opens up a whole slew of uses," such as tour guides and package delivery, said co-founder Sarjoun Skaff. He said there is a "groundswell" of that "cooperate with people."

-Romotive introduced a new version of Romo, its $150 smartphone robot, with wheels and camera, that uses the iPhone as its brain and operates like a remote-controlled car. It is described by CEO Keller Rinaudo as "Skype on wheels." Romotive also announced $5 million in funding from venture-capital firm Sequoia Capital.

Romo customers use it to do everything from chase the cat to monitor their kids at home, Rinaudo said.

-IRobot last month snapped up Evolution Robotics for $74 million to round out its product line of Roomba floor cleaners.

-ABB is demonstrating a robot that interprets dreams through paintings. The is on display in the lobby of a Paris hotel.

The automated contraptions seem to be everywhere. A conference on robotics in Silicon Valley this week has scheduled dancing bots and a pair of life-size humanoid robots as greeters.

Consumer robots increasingly are becoming part of the American home, and may be fixtures within several years, said Manuela Veloso, an artificial intelligence and robotics professor at Carnegie Mellon University, a leading researcher in both fields. As consumers become more comfortable with robots, they "will be accepted in everyday life," she says.

Experts predict that within 10 years, general-purpose robots - costing $25,000 to $30,000 per unit - will perform house chores while consumers are at work or serve as butlers at cocktail parties.

Explore further: Telerobotics puts robot power at your fingertips

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User comments : 11

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Maggnus
3.4 / 5 (5) Nov 16, 2012
Experts predict that within 10 years, general-purpose robots - costing $25,000 to $30,000 per unit - will perform house chores while consumers are at work or serve as butlers at cocktail parties.


Probably the same experts who predicted a fully functioning moon base by 1999. Been hearing this same rediction since the 70's, so I'll believe it when I see it.
baudrunner
1 / 5 (5) Nov 16, 2012
Autonomous vehicles; robot maids, butlers; robot soldiers; robot job and career workers - what are we going to do when they come out with robots to sit in for us?
VendicarD
not rated yet Nov 16, 2012
"what are we going to do when they come out with robots to sit in for us?" - Baud

Vanish.
VendicarD
1 / 5 (1) Nov 16, 2012
This article must be a reprint from the 1950's.

Cocktail parties went out of style in the late 1960's.

If these Futurists can't even describe the present, I have negative faith that they will do any better proclaiming a robot future 10 years hence.

Mayday
1.3 / 5 (3) Nov 17, 2012
I believe the fictionalized concept of a "robot" as a completely autonomous and sentient machine has done great harm to the advancement of robotics(I wish it had another name). A better definition would be a device that carries out a complete multi-step physical process without any need for human guidance or intervention. I have several that I depend on: my washing machine, my dishwasher, and my Neato vacuum cleaner. Keep it simple and learn to crawl before you take on the Boston Marathon.
tommytalks77
1.8 / 5 (5) Nov 17, 2012
@VendicarD: just because you haven't been invited to anything for years now it doesn't mean other people have such a dead social life like yours. Maybe if you stop trying to be such an annoying smnart-ass, when most of the time you only talk BS, then maybe, just maybe, you'll get invited to parties and cocktails.
COCO
1 / 5 (3) Nov 19, 2012
my friend Sue wants to know if these inventions will ever be able to play with her cats when she is not at home - did Asimov have a law for that?
Shakescene21
2.3 / 5 (3) Nov 19, 2012
@COCO. Maybe Sue will decide to get robotic cats. You play with them when you want to, and turn them off when you're not home.
Job001
1 / 5 (3) Nov 22, 2012
The author makes a reasonable qualitative case that the technology is advancing on many fronts now rather than as theory alone. An example provided, that of iPhone sensor as brains and wireless control replacing the robot wiring mess of the 50's is another interesting example of technology going viral. Creative kids with time and iPhones; step back non-believers.
powerup1
1 / 5 (1) Nov 24, 2012
Experts predict that within 10 years, general-purpose robots - costing $25,000 to $30,000 per unit - will perform house chores while consumers are at work or serve as butlers at cocktail parties.


Probably the same experts who predicted a fully functioning moon base by 1999. Been hearing this same rediction since the 70's, so I'll believe it when I see it.


The reason that we don't have a moon base, has more to do with politics than it does with technology. Look at how Newt Gingrich was ridiculed for bringing up the subject.

If a robot can do the work of a human, $30,000 is not that much, it's around the yearly cost of labor for a human worker. If the market is there, development will speed up. I think 10 to 15 years is not outside the realm possibility.
powerup1
not rated yet Nov 24, 2012
The author makes a reasonable qualitative case that the technology is advancing on many fronts now rather than as theory alone. An example provided, that of iPhone sensor as brains and wireless control replacing the robot wiring mess of the 50's is another interesting example of technology going viral. Creative kids with time and iPhones; step back non-believers.


Think about the sensor package that is in the "Kinect" system. 10 years ago how much do you think it would have cost you for those sensors? Now you can get it for less than $200. People are using it to build robots now.