Robots to Rock Your World

From the Pages of Science Fic­tion to Your Home: So­cial, Com­pan­ion and Ed­u­ca­tional Robots


Science fic­tion has al­ways played a role in how we view robots. From Me­trop­o­lis’ False Maria to ev­ery­one’s favourite droid R2-D2, sci-fi has shaped our ex­pec­ta­tions and fears sur­round­ing the fu­ture of ro­bot­ics. It’s un­likely we will be cow­er­ing down to ro­bot over­lords any­time soon, but with the cur­rent ad­vance­ments in tech­nol­ogy it’s in­evitable that our every­day lives will be touched by ro­bot­ics in one way or an­other.

Be­low are a few ex­am­ples of how this ex­cit­ing new tech­nol­ogy is im­pact­ing our lives to­day.


As a child I dreamed of life in Or­bit City, spend­ing my days zip­ping around in a fly­ing car, hang­ing out with the Jet­sons, and loung­ing in my Sky Pad, com­plete with my very own Rosie the Ro­bot. I might not be com­mut­ing in a fly­ing car any­time soon, but hav­ing a metal­lic maid could be in my not-so-dis­tant fu­ture. If Jan­uary’s CES (Con­sumer Elec­tron­ics Show) event is any in­di­ca­tion, do­mes­tic robots are ready for us, but are we ready for them?


With emo­tive eyes and a friendly dis­po­si­tion, Kuri ($699 US) is your Pixar char­ac­ter come to life. Mak­ing his of­fi­cial de­but at this year’s CES, Kuri warmed hearts as he rolled across the show­room floor chirp­ing to his own beat. The in­tel­li­gent home ro­bot re­sponds to voice com­mands much like

Ama­zon Echo or Google Home and is packed with sen­sors so he doesn’t fall down the stairs or bump into fur­ni­ture. His ex­pres­sive eyes can do more than com­mu­ni­cate his re­sponses, they fea­ture a built in HD-cam­era that can cap­ture pho­tos and video. Us­ing the smart­phone app, voice com­mands or IFTTT (If This Then That) ap­pli­ca­tions, Kuri can pa­trol your home, play with your kids, and con­trol smart home de­vices. He might not be Rosie, but he’s def­i­nitely not a Roomba!


An­other con­tender for cutest ro­bot at CES is BUDDY ($980 US). Fea­tur­ing a cam­era, ul­tra­sound, in­frared and ther­mal sen­sors, a range-finder sen­sor, a tem­per­a­ture sen­sor and ground de­tec­tors, BUDDY has a lot to of­fer. From rec­om­mend­ing recipes in the kitchen to test­ing kids on their home­work, this ro­bot is ready to join your house­hold. Un­like Kuri, BUDDY fea­tures an 8-inch tablet that acts as an in­ter­face and can be used for video calls and com­mands. This com­put­er­ized com­pan­ion not only wants to be a part of your fam­ily, but wants to de­moc­ra­tize ro­bot­ics. BUDDY is built on an open­source plat­form that makes it easy for de­vel­op­ers around the world to build ap­pli­ca­tions. With BUDDY the pos­si­bil­i­ties are endless.


Our world is cur­rently fac­ing an ag­ing pop­u­la­tion and this change in de­mo­graph­ics brings a host of new chal­lenges. For many se­niors, in­de­pen­dence is not some­thing they are will­ing to give up, and to re­move them from their home pre­ma­turely is heart­break­ing. Yu­mii for Cutii is a French startup that has de­vel­oped a com­pan­ion ro­bot specif­i­cally de­signed for the el­derly. Cutii (Cost TBD) works en­tirely through vo­cal com­mands and is de­signed to al­low se­niors to in­ter­act with their fam­ily, care­givers, and doc­tors. The com­pan­ion re­sem­bles a tablet on wheels and can take users on vir­tual tours of mu­se­ums, or sign them up for a lo­cal yoga class. By sim­pli­fy­ing every­day in­ter­ac­tions, Cutii can help se­niors stay con­nected to their com­mu­nity.


Get­ting older doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily mean grow­ing up, and for those who will al­ways be a kid at heart, CES fea­tured robotic toys that will make your in­ner child scream with de­light.


Imag­ine be­ing able to con­trol a ro­bot with a wave of your hand. With ZeroUI’s new ro­bot­ics kit, you can an­i­mate and con­trol your ro­bot with their new smart glove, Ziro ($249 US). Whether you’re us­ing a pre-made kit or your own de­sign, just at­tach the mo­tors and see your cre­ations come to life. The smart­phone app al­lows the user to map seven dif­fer­ent ges­tures that will in­form the move­ments of the mo­tors. This kit might be aimed at kids, but Ziro can be a pow­er­ful tool for roboti­cists of all ages to quickly pro­to­type their ideas.

by Stephanie Greenall

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