For those of us who grew up fantasizing over having Rosie from The Jetsons make us pancakes (or just load the dishwasher), the world of personal robotics is a childhood dream come true. In many ways, the bourgeoning industry is still in its infancy. As phones get smarter, artificial intelligence devices are the next step in a series of steps toward sentient computing. And as we all learned in Spike Jonze’s set-in-the-not-too-distant-hypothetical-future film Her, the next step after that is: We date them. Before wooing the operating systems of tomorrow, first meet the current generation of bots coming soon to a home near you. Admittedly, they're pretty lovable.
Jibo — As charming as the lead in a Pixar movie, this compact home robot uses two hi-res cameras to recognize and track faces, capture photos, and enable immersive video calling. A personal assistant of sorts, he syncs up to your house, can turn on the lights or even order take out. The multi-directional microphone feature allows you address him from any direction. So he will hear you say, “Open the pod bay doors, Jibo.” from every angle.
Nao — Compact and engaging, Nao answers questions, dances, and will learn a secret handshake. This petite, interactive companion can read everything from your mood to music preferences. With two cameras, touch sensors, and directional mics, he is fully capable of detecting and maneuvering his surroundings. His pint-size frame is shock proof, so if he falls down he will pick himself back up again, making him all the more endearing.
Sereneti — Weather you’re culinary-challenged, working overtime or just plain tired, this robot chef is here to cook you dinner. Simply load it up with fresh ingredients and choose what dish you’d like using your smartphone. Perhaps the most impressive feature of all is the corresponding app that inventories the ingredients you have in the fridge and offers up a menu of meal options that can be prepared accordingly. Is there a sommelier spin-off version in the works?
Budgee — This friendly, indoor/outdoor robot is outfitted with a basket that can help you carry up to 50 pounds of just about anything. Fully foldable, he only weighs 20 pounds and will easily fit in the trunk of a car. Will he do your laundry for you, you ask? No. But he will happily carry your freshly folded linens back from the laundromat.
Pepper — Nao’s sibling Pepper is the first ever humanoid robot designed to live with humans. Unlike his more subservient competition, Pepper is purely a companion, engineered to entertain and delight, versus say, make you a snadwich. He makes jokes, learns emotions and analyzes voice tones to suss out your mood. On top of being whip smart, his body language and voice settings are nuanced enough to lend him real personality. Available in February at Softbank Mobile stores.
Luna — If you know how to code, this programmable bot boasts a competitive price point and limitless capabilities. The human sized design is intended for personal use, equipped with a powerful computer, hi-def camera, touch-screen LCD, and plenty of app capability.
Beachbot — An adorable cartoon turtle that draws in the sand, Disney’s Beachbot is a shut and close case for most whimsical A.I. skill set of all time. The programmable or remote control computer sketches custom designs by the seashore of your choosing upon command. The ultimate beach buddy of the future, it's only a matter of time before the YouTube novelty marriage proposal library offers us up a video of this little guy popping the question to somebody.
Honda Asimo — The first A.I. celebrity to land a speaking engagement at Disneyland, Asimo currently calls “The Happiest Place on Earth” home. Guests of the Honda Asimo Theater inside the Tomorrowland can watch Asimo groove around the house and engage with her family. It’s a great big, beautiful tomorrow, indeed.
Would you ever own a personal robot? Tell us in the comments below.