Our Robots in the World series looks at the large and small ways robotics, automation, and artificial intelligence are changing our lives. We’ve already looked at how humans are collaborating with robots in hospitals and in our oceans.
Even robots have ambitions.
Take Evo. Sure, the bot’s spent the last several years teaching hundreds of thousands of kids around the world to code, and is proud of that work. But even Evo can’t help but look around at friends who have cool jobs and feel a little jealous.
Evo’s bot buddies can be found everywhere, from your doctor’s office (distracting kids from shots) to the bottom of the ocean (researching fault lines). Robot helpers come in all shapes and sizes, and most robots serve specific purposes.
In a few years, you won’t have to leave your house to interact with Evo’s robot friends. More robots are finding all kinds of new purposes, from helping homeowners complete their chores faster to keeping their human friends company.
Keep reading to learn all about some of the career moves Evo sometimes daydreams about making.
Humans Are Inviting Robots Into Their Homes
While robots have been a part of the average household since the invention of the dishwasher and vacuum, connected, machine learning robots are growing in popularity. As more people embrace AI and smart households, they’re more open to adding robots to their daily lives.
According to the International Federation of Robotics, the number of domestic household robots will rise to 31 million from 4 million between 2016 and 2019. The sales of these robots account for more than $13 billion in revenue for the United States, with robot companions entering homes to clean, complete chores, and serve as personal assistants.
The IFR isn’t the only organization that believes American households are about to see a surge in robot helpers. The experts at Juniper Research say one in 10 American households will have a consumer robot by 2020. For comparison, only one in 25 had in-home robots in 2015.
Interestingly, these robots might not change how households look. Experts believe today’s smart devices are still bulky and in their early stages. In the future, they will blend seamlessly into our lives.
“If you were to sleep 100 years into the future, wake up, and then look around, you won’t immediately think that things have changed much based on what you see in the physical environment,” Robert Coneybeer, co-founder of venture capital firm Shasta Ventures, says. “Robots will have enough intelligence to know that when they come into a room to clean, they’ll do it when it’s not occupied. You’ll never hear it. You won’t see it but it will be there.”
In the meantime, a few robots are already working their way into our homes and hearts. Here are 15 robot friends you might see around your home.
Indoor Cleaning Robots Complete Your Chores
The first type of in-home robots that come to mind are cleaning robots. Like robotic vacuums, these bots complete sets of chores and are meant to create more free time for homeowners.
The developers at Ecovacs created a window-cleaning robot to pair with their vacuuming robot. All you have to do is spray on window cleaner and then suction Winbot to the glass. It will contain the cleaner and properly squeegee the surface until it’s done. This creates a better and easier clean than when you struggle to reach the top of your windows yourself.
It may seem like something out of the Jetsons, but it’s possible to wash, steam and dry clean your clothes in less than 10 minutes. Swash is the laundry robot that you keep in your closet or bedroom.
All you do is hang up your items and start the cleaning process, simultaneously refreshing and preserving your clothes. A 10-minute clean is fast, but you also save time running to the dry cleaners each week to pick up your clothes.
Toibit is a robot that cleans your toilet, one of a few options currently on the market or in development. This robot uses cleaning capsules and a flexible brush that can reach anywhere in the bowl.
The hands-free approach means you’ll no longer have to get up close and personal with your toilet when cleaning.
As robotics progress, robots are likely to move away from one-chore electronics to multi-chore. Fetch Robotics is working to create robot maids with this kind of versatility. Currently their robots are used in warehouses and by businesses, but if the company can use machine learning to teach robots how to fold towels and complete other complex chores, they could be ready to develop an in-home robot maid.
Kitchen Robots Prepare Delicious Meals
There’s a significant difference between appliances and robots in the kitchen. Appliances make it easier to complete a task, while robots complete the task for you.
Is there anything better than tearing into fresh, hot bread? The creators of Rotimatic didn’t think so, which is why they developed a robot to create perfect flatbread. This robot measures, kneads, flattens, and roasts any type of roti.
All you have to do is eat.
The GammaChef robot specializes in one-pot meals. It deposits the ingredients, stirs, and heats them until you’re ready to eat. While a one-pot robot might seem limiting, its creators have actually made hundreds of different meals with this technology.
Busy moms often create one-pot meals in their crockpots or pressure cookers. This is similar, except the one-pot meal is robot-made.
Moley has created something beyond any kitchen gadget or tool. The company is prepared to launch a fully-functional chef robot, made of two robot hands that can completely reproduce the functions of kitchen staff. Moley’s robot prototype can create more than 2,000 dishes designed by master chefs, making this device one of the top cooks in the country.
If this robot enters the consumer market, you could be eating five-star meals when you eat at home.
Outdoor Home Robots Take Over Yard Work
Robots aren’t just for inside the house! Today’s developers are working on waterproof and solar-charging robots that live outside and manage your yard, garden, and porch.
The team at Franklin Robotics recently debuted Tertill, a solar-powered weeding robot for gardens. This robot travels through flower and vegetable beds, identifying weeds and pulling them up without using dangerous chemicals.
Tertill identifies weeds by their size, and gardeners can protect seedlings with plant collars. This robot helper reduces the frustration of weeding and allows gardeners to grow organic plants.
Once you’re done weeding, the next step is watering. The team at Droplet Robotics has developed a watering robot that knows how much water to deliver. Homeowners input the type of plants they have and where they are located into an app and then hook up the robot to the hose.
Droplet is less wasteful than traditional sprinklers and other watering methods and provides analytics to show where your water goes over time. Droplet also uses the data from more than 10,000 weather stations to prevent watering before or during a rainstorm.
It makes sense with the rise of robot vacuums that developers would soon manage to produce an outdoor equivalent. Robomow is an autonomous lawn mowing robot.
Homeowners measure their lawn to see which size Robomow is best and then control the robot with their smartphones. Suddenly, an afternoon spent mowing the lawn turns into a Saturday spent playing with the kids.
While robots help you garden and take care of your lawn, they can also complete a variety of other outdoor chores. Grillbot was designed to clean BBQ grill grates for 10, 20, or 30 minutes at a time. It scrapes off unwanted char from past grilling parties and lets humans focus on the cooking, not the cleaning aspect.
Grillbot was even featured in the 2017 Christmas Gift & Hobby Show in Indianapolis, meaning it’s about to be more common on the consumer market.
Companion Robots Keep You Company
Not all robots are working robots, some are meant to be social and keep you company. These often follow the traditional design that most people picture when they think about home robot assistants, like Rosie from the Jetsons. However, each robot has its own design, use, and features.
Jibo doesn’t move around your home, but can respond to your voice and turn its head to follow your movements. While it can take photos or report the weather, Jibo is meant to be a listening and learning robot. It recognizes faces and remembers people, including the interactions with them.
Jibo is advertized as a companion, but has the potential to help older people. It can remind them about appointments and important items that they otherwise might forget.
If you’re looking for a movable companion robot, consider Kuri. This robot has a friendly disposition, meaning it can offer advice and support your kids when they’re doing chores or studying for a big test.
One of the more heartwarming aspects of Kuri is the automatic video and photo feature. The robot captures videos throughout your day and sends them to you, creating little digital recordings of your life.
Aido is a similar companion robot to Kuri, but is meant to serve as an all-in-one home assistant. Aido’s patrol mode uses various sensors to keep your home safe, its connectivity allows it to manage smart devices and its personable nature makes it a companion to watch the kids.
As in-home robot assistants become more popular, multiple features like the ones Aido has will help some brands take over the consumer market.
Developed by Blue Frog Robotics, BUDDY won the hearts of visitors to CES Paris earlier this year and won the Best of Innovation award. BUDDY is meant to be an open-source robot, so developers can create their own programs and tasks for it.
BUDDY also specializes in elder-care with fall detection and unusual activity sensors to alert family members or medical staff.
Within a few years, Evo could have a whole host of robot friends to play with in the home! From weeding robots to window cleaners, Evo’s buddies will give families more room to play and spend time together.