More down time. Fewer chores. Do robots have a future in our homes?
Exciting. That’s how scientists describe the future of domestic robots. Yet while life-changing designs are still to flood the market – owing to questions around functionality, safety and price – home AI (artificial intelligence) is making significant advances. Below, we explore what’s on the horizon, and what you might see in your home someday soon. And why, from feather-duster-equipped robot butlers to mechanical dogs (complete with wagging tails), there’s plenty to look forward to.
A balancing act: Functionality, safety and price
Fully autonomous robot helpers, the kinds you might have seen in The Jetsons and Bicentennial Man, aren’t here – just yet.
And while Roomba has been rolling around for over 20 years – vacuuming household floors without peep or protest – the futuristic models of your dreams are still a work in progress.
The reason? Well, there are a few.
Designing a robot to be more useful than humans is a challenge. Particularly within the household setting.
Even simple tasks like cleaning, for example, can involve a catalogue of chores. From emptying the dishwasher and changing the linen to taking out the rubbish and recycling.
These varied jobs are easy for us. But for a robot with limited movement and functionality, it’s a different story.
But that’s changing.
Now, inventors are:
- Developing optical sensors to help robots navigate unique environments (and avoid bumping into walls).
- Exploring speech recognition systems so robots can register voice commands.
- Designing bionic attachments to mimic the dexterity of the human hand.
What does all that mean? That traditionally, fundamentally human capabilities – sight, speech, and opposable digits – will soon be the realm of robots, too.
When it comes to robots, safety is paramount.
And, given our love for dystopian films depicting the perils of artificial thought (think The Terminator, or 2001: A Space Odyssey’s HAL 9000) it’s clear that society still has plenty of reservations around robots.
Yet while today’s robots aren’t designed to harm or destroy, there are some safety issues to consider.
To start, inviting AI into your home opens the door to cyber attacks. Hackers could, theoretically, target your robot to gain access to your property, to steal the bank details you use to shop online, or gain access to your social media accounts.
Falls and accidents are of concern too.
Right now, most robots are deployed in large warehouses alongside trained workers – so they can operate without risk to people nearby.
But when you swap a professional environment for the home – with kids, pets and delicate crockery inside – it’s a different ball game.
That’s why developers are fine-tuning ultrasonic distance sensors for our home-dwelling, robot counterparts.
The outcome? Robots that will keep your fine china intact.
When it comes to actually manufacturing robots, costs are a significant hurdle. And for good reason – companies invest millions of dollars developing a single prototype.
To then test, refine and pump out that design en masse? Well… it isn’t cheap. And right now, those prohibitive production costs are passed down – all the way to the customer.
The bottom line? People aren’t prepared to spend upwards of $50,000 on a machine with limited capabilities.
However, as technology matures and demand increases, bringing robots into your home will become more accessible – and more affordable.
What’s on the horizon: Robot helpers, cleaners and pets
Technology moves fast.
In 2022, AI has progressed from simply yelling at Siri to turn down the TV, or asking Google Home when it’s going to rain.
These days, robots are learning to grasp and carry objects (just like humans!) and walk freely. They can respond to verbal instructions, too – all while looking right at you.
Modern robots are cleaning up spills with powerful suction cups. And using mechanical arms to carry heavy furniture.
Elsewhere, robo dogs are walking, talking and wagging their metal tails to provide pet-like companionship (without the mess). And even washing machines are getting in on the act, with new designs promising robots that’ll clean, dry and fold your clothes.
The future of your home: Fewer to-do lists. More down time.
So what will the future entail for home life as robot technology takes off?
Well, whether it’s two, five or ten years from now, you can expect to be doing fewer chores. And spending more quality time with friends and family.
Just look at the Roomba vacuum cleaner. This intelligent, automated machine was first launched in 2002. Since then, it’s sold millions of units worldwide. And, in doing so, saved people countless hours maintaining their homes.
But that’s nothing compared to what’s around the corner.
Electronics giant LG, for instance, is re-imagining the way we design homes: harnessing high-end tech to build hassle-free households.
Think automated AI systems that open doors, close curtains, and manage power consumption. Self-running dishwashers, washing machines and air conditioners. And smart light globes that dim and brighten of their own accord to support our natural circadian rhythms.
Oh – and the walking, talking, dextrous (and feather-duster-equipped) robot butler?
Well… that’s just a bonus!