Ah, CES, the annual event that debuted such useful items as the GoBot, which was a robot that would bring you toilet paper.
TNW’s columnist has explained why these robots are so often useless: “It’s one thing to build human-sized machines capable of running amok in a laboratory. It’s another to create a robot that’s human-sized, useful, and safe to operate in the wild.”
He continues, “We, as a species, are nowhere near having the technology it would take to create a humanoid robot that’s capable of functioning as a general laborer or domestic servant.”
That’s the unpalatable truth.
Robots are, at this point, incapable of folding laundry, picking up the stuff a normal human child leaves out on the floor after a day of play, or changing a lightbulb.
CES and industry
Industrial robots are, as you can tell from the graph above, getting more and more popular. Home robots of the kind we usually see as CES are another kettle of fish.
This year, for example, you can see a smart bathtub. Tell it how deep a bath you want and what temperature you prefer, and it will draw you a bath. This could save you a good 43 seconds over having to draw your own bath, but we think Jeeves could figure out the details without specific instructions.
There will also be a smart drain (we don’t know what that does) and a bath-running app for your phone, not to mention a hands-free faucet you can turn on with a vague wave, thus cutting the time involved in running your own bath from 43 seconds to 41.
They’ll be showing lights that switch on and off when you point to them, and a kitchen faucet with volume control.
We’re prepared to admire the engineering, but these seem like solutions in search of a problem for most people.
At the other end of the spectrum from industrial robots ae the companion bots, of which you will find a plethora at CES this year.
Most have less practical value than Alexa and are not as cute as a teddy bear. Make a friend! Get a puppy! Even a teddy bear could be equally good company as a machine that makes unintelligible noises that seem to ask you to pick it up.
Or get chummy with your hands-free light switches.