The Consumer Electronic Show (CES) takes place every year in Las Vegas. Since its inauguration in 1967 CES has showcased the cutting edge of consumer electronics. Back then it was pocket radios, today consumer tech is a lot more exciting. VR, wearables and robotics hold the spotlight.
Industrial robotics is the largest sector in the robotics industry. Consumer robotics are still worth several billion, as developments on the cutting-edge begin to propagate throughout the marketplace we’re going to see more robots. Integrating AI personal assistants with robotics brings us a step closer to robot butlers.
Robotics at CES 2017
SoftBank’s Pepper is a humanoid robot you may have encountered in a shopping centre or airport in the last few years. Pepper is a robot design to interact, and serve, humans. This year Pepper went a little more adult, playing Cards Against Humanity with and pouring drinks for attendees.
Amazon’s AI assistant Alexa became corporeal at CES 2017. Lynx is a humanoid robot from Ubtech Robotics. Unlike Pepper Lynx has legs, although walking is handwork for the little guy dancing, dabbing and yoga are within its capabilities. That’s right, Lynx can teach you yoga.
Human movement is difficult for robots to replicate. We’ve had millions of years to get our gait right. NASA operate in environments however where legs aren’t always necessary. VERVE is an open-source 3D graphical user interface (GUI) for visualizing robotic data. By acting as a means of communication with robots VERVE is doing wonders for inter-intelligence relations.
- Lego Boost
Everyone’s favorite building material has finally integrated robotics. Lego Boost is aimed at kids but that’s just advertising. Five default recipes (“Vernie the Robot, Frankie the Cat, the Guitar 4000, the Multi-Tool Rover 4 (M.T.R.4), and the Autobuilder”) lay the foundation for hours of fun. The pack includes a tilt, color and distance sensors, Boost brick and 843 bricks.
Bad cooks everywhere can now get some assistance in the kitchen. Mike is Bosch’s countertop smart speaker. Similar to Amazon Echo or Google Home, Mykie is an internet of things hub able to control other Bosch appliances. Its a cute idea although the proprietary lock-down dampens things.
Robots are no longer fringe. But the field is still pushing forward. Ziro is a kit from ZeroUI which as the name suggests, lacks a user interface. Well not yet, Ziro is a glove, a motor and an app for programming. Wearing the glove allows the user to move around a robot. Nifty.
Doing things humans don’t want to do. That’s robots in a sentence. Android goes straight for the jugular; it folds your clothes. Simply put your shirt in the draw, wait five minutes and ding, shirts ready. Five minutes might be a long time to fold a shirt, but its early days. This is the sort of invention that although hilariously impractical now has the seeds of future proliferation.
If you’ve seen the film Rubber you may recognize Olly. This donut shaped device is part home hub, part robot. Feature wise its basically Alexa or Echo, however the hoped selling point with Olly is the deep learning algorithm. Olly is supposed to learn about your patterns of life and help you along with them. Currently Olly rises from the stand and will turn to face you, stick a motor and a gyroscope in there and you’ve got a highly mobile personal assistant, with the right tires Olly could join you on a bike ride or a walk. The light patterns are a bit HAL though.
- X-Star Drones
Drones are great. They’ve made Hollywood budget shots cost a fraction and therefore open to filmmakers who may never have had the chance to play with aerial shots. Autel Robotics make fancy drones.At CES 2017 the manufacturer delivered two new camera modules. The FLIR Duo adds a thermal camera to the drone. A thermal camera. You could track fugitives or smugglers with this thing. The second module is a 4K quality visual camera, considered my first phone had a 2 inch camera you plugged in the bottom to get 256 pixels, this is wild.
CES has received criticism in the past for its vanity. Without going all economical it is billed as the Consumer Electronic Show, so weirdly satisfying yet superficial encounters are to be expected. Leka is a robot with a more human mission, to help children with autism to process the madness of the world. Good, helpful stuff.
At the moment consumer robotics is still waiting for its iPhone moment. There are a lot of fascinating and well developed products hitting the shelves, they still need time to mature (and drop in price).