Where are they - our home robots? (Topic)

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Where are they - our home robots?


It seems that the future is near: now, a couple of years will pass, and robots will begin to appear in homes, ready to help people with the housework. But time goes by, and all that we have today is robotic vacuum cleaners, which were invented more than 10 years ago. Why is the market for robotic assistants dead despite recent innovations? Experts talk about it.

It's been 16 years since the first Roomba robot vacuum hit the market. In fact, its appearance was far from the classical representation of a robot: it was a circular device that moved independently on the floor, collecting dust. The second generation of iRobot Roomba found its way to the charging base after cleaning. Unlike the robotic dog Aibo, introduced by Sony in 1999, the Roomba turned out to be a more practical invention: it did some of the housework, and was affordable for many.

Since then, the United States, Japan, South Korea and Europe have tried many times to create new, more advanced robotic assistants - androids, companion robots, cleaners and janitors. But, unfortunately, none of these attempts have been successful, and the category of domestic robots is still limited to a single representative - a robotic vacuum cleaner.

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For all their optimism, robotics and artificial intelligence researchers recognize that even the most advanced machines find it incredibly difficult to do the simplest of everyday things. Drawing water from the tap and watering the flowers is an elementary task, but only a person can complete it without hesitation.

More and more researchers are coming to the conclusion that recent breakthroughs in machine learning aren't enough to create robots that can move and do housework. And it's not a fact that new developments will help overcome difficulties in the near future. Several promising startups in the field have already admitted defeat.

Mayfield Robotics, which developed the Kuri home robot with the support of German company Bosch, announced in July that it would suspend operations and refund pre-order deposits. A little earlier, a similar fate befell the social robot Jibo. Its creation was carried out by a professor at the Massachusetts Institute Cynthia Breezil. The project was exhibited on the Indiegogo platform in 2014.

Jibo robot

The evolution of voice assistants is going at a frantic pace, and the development of domestic robots, on the contrary, is advancing at the speed of a snail.

“I remember the South Korean president promising that every South Korean home will have a robotic assistant in 2012,” recalls Tandy Trower, a software engineer who oversaw the original Microsoft Windows operating system and later founded the company's robotics department. ... He now heads his own firm, Hoaloha Robotics, and develops mobile robot assistants for the elderly. Thrower believes that one day he will present the public with a truly working machine, but for now admits that there is no finished product on the horizon.


"The floor scavenger is the only robot we can create now, and only if we can make the robotic arm cheaper," says Ken Goldberg, a robotics engineer at the University of Berkeley. In his opinion, the technology market is very close to the appearance of simple cleaning machines, which, in the absence of the owners, put the house in order. Goldberg's science team is also experimenting with a robot capable of making a bed. But Goldberg himself claims that even if such a device becomes commercially available, it should not be required from it human speed in performing tasks.

Some experts believe that the aging of the bulk of the world's population will be the factor that will accelerate the emergence of sophisticated domestic robots.

“Demographic changes will give a strong impetus to the emergence of such devices. Therefore, the development of android assistants will soon be considered promising, ”said Gill Pratt, executive director of the Toyota Research Institute.


Alongside Toyota, Google X and Amazon labs are actively pursuing robotics research that reportedly focuses on home use. The emergence of robotic assistants has seemed incredibly close for several decades, however, despite good funding and numerous developments, scientists admit that this is still far away.

“Three things make our job harder than anything else,” says Kai-fu Lee, a leading Chinese artificial intelligence researcher who is now a venture capitalist. - “Time, money and expectations. The public wants us to make an incredible product at a low cost, fast. It's impossible. "

The Topic of Article: Where are they - our home robots?.
Author: Jake Pinkman