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.

China uses facial recognition to monitor ethnic minorities

China has been criticised for adding facial recognition to an already obtrusive surveillance system in Xinjiang, a Muslim-dominated region in the country's far west. The "alert project" matches faces from surveillance camera footage to a watchlist of suspects, and supposedly is designed to thwart terrorist attacks.

Source: Engadget

Microsoft execs say the ultimate form of AI is a digital assistant

In an interview with Business Insider, Microsoft president Brad Smith and EVP of AI and research Harry Shum have said the ultimate manifestation of AI in 20 years will be in a digital assistant that will serve as an "alter ego." The two argue that we need to set ground rules for our AI assitants while we still can.

Facebook’s head of AI isn't impressed by Sophia the robot

Facebook's head of AI, Yann LeCun, isn't happy with Sophia the robot. Following a Business Insider interview with Sophia, LeCun took to Twitter to call the whole thing “complete bullsh*t”. He went on to say Sophia masquerading as a semi-sentient entity was "to AI as prestidigitation is to real magic”.

Source: The Verge

Drone saves the lives of two swimmers

Two teenage boys were rescued by a brand new lifesaving drone in Australia, while lifeguards were still training to use the device. When a member of the public spotted them struggling in heavy surf about 700m (2,300ft) offshore the drone was sent out and dropped an inflatable rescue pod, which allowed the pair to make their way safely to shore.

Source: BBC

Google defends the right to not let people be forgotten online

Google is going to court to defend it's right to not abide by "the right to be forgotten", which it says “represent[s] a serious assault on the public’s right to access lawful information. Two anonymous people want the search engine to take down links to information about their old convictions because search engine results attract “adverse attention”.

Source: Bloomberg

UK Police delivering daily briefings via Amazon Echo

Lancashire police have begun streaming daily briefings straight to peoples' homes through Amazon Echo. Users will get hourly updates as well as pictures of wanted and missing people sent directly to their devices. "Alexa works alongside traditional policing methods to inform the public about the important issues in their neighbourhoods," said PC Rob Flanagan.

Source: BBC

A quarter of ethical hackers don’t report cybersecurity concerns because it’s not clear who they should be reporting them to

Almost a quarter of hackers have not reported a vulnerability that they found because the company didn’t have a channel to disclose it, according to a survey of the ethical hacking community.

With 1,698 respondents, the 2018 Hacker Report, conducted by the cybersecurity platform HackerOne, is the largest documented survey ever conducted of the ethical hacking community.

In the survey, HackerOne reports that nearly 1 in 4 hackers have not reported a vulnerability because the company in question lacks a vulnerability disclosure policy (VDP) or a formal method for receiving vulnerability submissions from the outside world.

Without a VDP, ethical, white-hat hackers are forced to go through other channels like social media or emailing personnel in the company, but, as the survey states, they are “frequently ignored or misunderstood”.

Despite some companies lacking a VDP, the hackers surveyed in the report did say that companies are becoming more open to receiving information about vulnerabilities than they were in the past.

Of the 1,698 respondents, 72% noted that companies have become more open to receiving vulnerability reports in the past year,

That figure includes 34% of hackers who believe companies have become far more open.

Unlike a bug bounty program, a VDP does not offer hackers financial incentives for their findings, but they are still incredibly effective.

Organisations like the US Department of Defence have received and resolved nearly 3,000 security vulnerabilities in the last 18 months from their VDP alone.

India (23%) and the United States (20%) are the top two countries represented by the HackerOne hacker community, followed by Russia (6%), Pakistan (4%) and the United Kingdom (4%).

The report revealed that because bug bounties usually have no geographical boundaries the payments involved can be life changing for some hackers.

The top hackers based in India earn 16 times the median salary of a software engineer. And on average, top earning hackers make 2.7 times the median salary of a software engineer in their home country.

In terms of which demographics are attracted to a life of ethical hacking, the report found that over 90% of hackers are under the age of 35, and unsurprisingly the vast majority of hackers on the HackerOne platform are male.