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.

Wanted man captured thanks to facial recognition

A Chinese man who was wanted by police for “economic crimes” – which can include anything from tax evasion to the theft of public property – was arrested at a music concert in China after facial recognition technology spotted him inside the venue.

Source: Abacus News

SpaceX president commits to city-to-city rocket travel

SpaceX president and chief operating officer Gwynne Shotwell has reiterated the company’s plans to make city-to-city travel — on Earth — using a rocket that’s designed for outer space a reality. Shotwell says the tech will be operational “within a decade, for sure.”

Source: Recode

Businessman wins battle with Google over 'right to be forgotten'

A businessman fighting for the "right to be forgotten" has won a UK High Court action against Google.. The businessman served six months’ in prison for “conspiracy to carry out surveillance”, and the judge agreed to an “appropriate delisting order".

Source: Press Gazette

UK launched cyber attack on Islamic State

The UK has conducted a "major offensive cyber campaign" against the Islamic State group, the director of the intelligence agency GCHQ, Jeremy Fleming, has revealed. The operation hindered the group's ability to co-ordinate attacks and suppressed its propaganda.

Source: BBC

Goldman Sachs consider whether curing patients is bad for business

Goldman Sachs analysts have attempted to tackle the question of whether pioneering "gene therapy" treatment will be bad for business in the long run. "Is curing patients a sustainable business model?" analysts ask in a report entitled "The Genome Revolution."

Source: CNBC

Four-armed robot performing surgery in the UK

A £1.5m "robotic" surgeon, controlled using a computer console, is being used to shorten the time patients spend recovering after operations. The da Vinci Xi machine is the only one in the country being used for upper gastrointestinal surgery.

Source: BBC

Virgin Galactic rocket planes go past the speed of sound

Virgin Galactic completed its first powered flight in nearly four years when Richard Branson's space company launched its Unity spacecraft, which reached supersonic speeds before safely landing. “We’ve been working towards this moment for a long time,” Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides said in an email to Quartz.

Source: Quartz

Google employees protest being in "the business of war"

Thousands of Google employees, including dozens of senior engineers, have signed a letter protesting the company’s involvement in a Pentagon program that uses AI to interpret video imagery and could be used to improve the targeting of drone strikes. The letter, which is circulating inside Google, has garnered more than 3,100 signatures

Source: New York Times

Computer system transcribes words users “speak silently”

MIT researchers have developed a computer interface that transcribes words that the user verbalises internally but does not actually speak aloud. The wearable device picks up neuromuscular signals in the jaw and face that are triggered by internal verbalisations — saying words “in your head” — but are undetectable to the human eye.

Source: MIT News

Drones could be used to penalise bad farming

A report by a coalition of environmental campaigners is arguing squadrons of drones should be deployed to locate and penalise farmers who let soil run off their fields. Their report says drones can help to spot bad farming, which is said to cost more than £1.2bn a year by clogging rivers and contributing to floods.

Source: BBC

Californian company unveil space hotel

Orion Span, a California company, has unveiled its Aurora Station, a commercial space station that would house a luxury hotel. The idea is to put the craft in low-earth orbit, about 200 miles up, with a stay at the hotel likely to cost $9.5 million for a 12-day trip, but you can reserve a spot now with an $80,000 deposit.

UK mobile operators pay close to £1.4bn for 5G

An auction of frequencies for the next generation of mobile phone networks has raised £1.36bn, says regulator Ofcom. Vodafone, EE, O2 and Three all won the bandwidth needed for the future 5G mobile internet services, which are not expected to be launched until 2020.

Source: BBC