From Roomba to Rosie: Getting Closer to the Chore-Free Home of the Future

By: | August 24th, 2015

Current household robots are largely one trick ponies. Sure, it’s nice to have a dog bowl on wheels quietly move around the room, sucking up whatever the kids brought in on their shoes, but what else can it do? The market is flooded with robots that can vacuum the carpet, mow the lawn, or remember to water your plants. Recently, I came across a robot to change your cat litter, which would be useless unless you made the mistake of owning a cat in the first place. Relax, I’m kidding! But I know what you’re thinking, “How long until I get to turn on a humanoid protocol droid that can handle complex tasks, speak my language, and help out around the ole’ moisture farm?” The good news is, sooner than you thought.

Robotic engineers are working hard to lighten your chore list. As a result, robots that perform multiple household functions are coming right around the corner. According to The Wall Street Journal, at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this year, “Two pioneers in the field of social robotics said they are ready to begin selling personal robots. Their hope is that getting robots with basic capabilities like motion, video and voice recognition into homes will encourage developers to create the software that will make them feel like part of the family.”

One such social robot is the Nao: a walking, talking, 23-inch tall, happy looking bot that has the ability to read emotions with 70% accuracy rate (my wife said that was better than me). The eventual function of these social robots is limitless. Ideally, they will be able to help cook, monitor the elderly, or even encourage you to stick with your goals. While the Nao still leaves much to be desired, roboticist Bruno Maisonnier says that if consumers can see the value of such social robots and engineers continue to explore their potential, then “robots as capable and autonomous as we saw in Star Wars might be 10 to 15 years away.”

[See also: A Brief History of Robots]

Don’t think you can wait that long? With plans to open in the summer of 2015, the Japanese Henn-Ha Hotel intends to staff its hotel almost entirely with robots. According to the hotel, the humanoid robots called Actroids are “designed to look and act like young Japanese women” who will speak fluent Japanese, Korean, Chinese, and English. The blinking, talking, and moving robots will do about 90 percent of the work, lending to a very efficiently run hotel that will also be cost-effective, allowing room rates as low as $60 per night.

The future is bright in the world of household robotics. The days of considering Tomy Dustbot as a high-tech symbol of creativity and robotic genius are over, and Rosie the Robot is on her way to becoming a reality! Thanks to new heights of ingenuity, mass-market robots have become smarter and more affordable than ever, and a world where robots complete your dreaded household chores may be closer than you had previously dared to hope.

Your turn! What is the first chore that you will give to your household robot in the future?

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Justin Risedorf

Justin is a contributing author to and Mouser Electronics’ Bench Talk for Design Engineers blog who loves to read and write about the advancements of technology and robotics. When not at work, you can find him conquering Risk and Catan or on an adventure with his wife and kids. Last Father's Day he received a #1 dad shirt, so now that's official.

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