Despite LG’s Robotic Failure, 2018 is Shaping Up to Be the Year Home Robots Come to the Masses

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’s home robot Cloi, which had a dreadful launch at CES. Image courtesy of LG

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.

The Aeolus Robot is designed to realise the robot butler dream. Image courtesy 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.”

Miko is designed specifically for children. Image courtesy of Emotix

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.”

ShadeCraft’s multifunctional Sunflower robotic umbrella is the first of a line of non-humanoid robots to be launched by the company. Image courtesy of ShadeCraft

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.

McAfee Announces Antivirus for Your Home

Notorious antivirus software provider McAfee has announced that it is rolling out cybersecurity services for your home as part of a suite of products designed to bring the company’s services out of computers and into the rest of your life.

The result of a partnership between McAfee and hardware manufacturer D-Link, the home protection comes in the form of a router that will block threats to all devices on your network.

Designed to combat the growing security problems associated with connected smart home devices, the snappily named D-Link AC2600 Wi-Fi Router Powered by McAfee is designed to combat threats including viruses, malware, botnet attacks and phishing attempts.

“As the number of connected devices in homes increases, consumers are increasingly concerned about online security threats. D-Link teamed up with McAfee and Intel to address these concerns with a powerful, easy to manage, all-in-one solution,” said Anny Wei, D-Link president and CEO. “The new AC2600 Wi-Fi Router Powered by McAfee is our solution for consumers to help protect their homes and children from evolving online threats.”

The D-Link AC2600 Wi-Fi Router Powered by McAfee. Image courtesy of D-Link

McAfee announced the product today at CES, alongside a number of other announcements including the rollout of Samsung Secure Wi-Fi – a Wi-Fi protection service underpinned by McAfee that is now available for the Galaxy Note8 – and McAfee Identity Theft Protection.

The latter has been developed primarily for the American market in response to the growing number of data breaches, which have seen the personal data of almost the entire US adult population being leaked.

Designed to provide users with peace of mind, the service offers a suite of features to ensure users’ identities remain protected. A cyber monitoring service performs scans of online black market, and notifies users if it finds evidence of their personal data being up for sale, while a Social Security Number Trace service provides users with a list of aliases and addresses tied to their SSN so that they can see if anyone shady is using it.

The service also offers credit monitoring, complete with alerts to changes in their status, and provides a support line for anyone subject to identity theft or credit issues.

“Data breaches are increasing in volume and therefore calling into question who consumers can rely on to keep their personal information safe,” said John Giamatteo, executive vice president, consumer business group, McAfee.

“Today, McAfee is trusted by 375 million consumers worldwide to protect what matters most – whether that is their devices, their child’s online safety, or their identity and privacy. McAfee is a name synonymous with cybersecurity, one that consumers can depend on to continue to evolve and innovate to help put consumer minds at ease when digital security uncertainty is high.”

McAfee’s antivirus products are the most installed of their kind, but have proved controversial. Image courtesy of Cineberg / Shutterstock.com

The move is undoubtedly an attempt by McAfee to keep its business relevant in a time when antivirus is becoming a vanishingly small part of cybersecurity efforts, however whether people will be happy for the company to play an increasing role in their lives remains to be seen.

Despite being the most commonly used antivirus on the planet, McAfee has attracted considerable criticism, particularly for the immense difficulty associated with uninstalling it.

McAfee founder John McAfee, for example, who now has no involvement with the company, in 2015 said in a Reddit AMA: “McAfee is one of the worst products on the f**king planet”, and famously produced a video entitled How to Uninstall McAfee Antivirus,  which culminates in him shooting a laptop to ‘uninstall’ the product.

Many may fear that the company will use similar practices with these new products, so it will be up to the company to prove that its offering will help consumers, not leave them feeling frustrated and locked into a McAfee-run system.