Live from CES – Robots!

Like many people, when I think about robots, my mind conjures up popular science fiction characters; I like to focus on the benevolent robots from ‘Lost in Space’ or R2D2 and C3PO from ‘Star Wars’. People-friendly robots that help with the daily tasks of life. We recently evaluated the real life implications of robotics at the lab with a new display in our entrance area…focused on old, new and famous robots, we pondered the questions of what is the significance of robotics on current consumer life…how will the technology impact marketing and consumer behavior. The real artificial intelligence-style robots that take on human emotions, control our lives and substitute for human life are not quite out in the consumer market (Will Smith has nothing to fear), but there are interesting solutions rolling out from around the world.

Featured in the Innovation Exhibit at CES are the latest in consumer solutions – robots for the home or office. There are the toy-like solutions from Wow Wee, including the fabulous RoboSapian version 2. Robosapian has the ability to program its personalities and allows you to interact with it via a remote control. It can play music, videos and respond to a host of other stimuli. Marketed as a toy “designed by a NASA scientist,” the 14-inch Robosapien remote-controlled robot is packed with lifelike humanoid features. You can teach it to walk, fetch objects on the floor, or groove to music. He communicates in grunts and physical actions. In a brief discussion with one of its programmers on the CES floor we were told that the ability to add artificial intelligence and voice recognition services would put the price point and development time out of scope for the US Consumer market. Right now the current version retails at a few hundred dollars.

Sony’s now discontinued playful robotic dog Aibo, retailed at over $2,000 and while it has a lot more programming and learning capabilities, and a devoted community of followers (come see it in the lab, it’s amazing), its price point may have curtailed its popularity, ultimately leading to Sony’s decision last year to discontinue the product.

From Korea, the iRobiQ from Yujin Robot, is a networked robot that provides entertainment with Karaoke, video messaging and game content as well as giving news, weather and cooking information in an amusing little interface. It’s part of a education network for tutoring, has a home monitoring system for security purposes and will also be rolling out a vacuum cleaning solution, similar to irobot’s, Romba.

From the Netherlands’ Nikko Home Electronics, a multifunction R2D2 robot which has a DVD Player, projector, iPod docking system, memory card and full motion wireless remote control capabilities. It also features Skype functionality and a web camera. And of course the R2D2 sound effects.

From Japan, a small and spunky Robot and with far less functionality then the other robots is the Plen, a “desktop toy” whose sole purpose is to entertain at your desk. It’s controllable from your PC or mobile phone through Bluetooth and features 20 different motion programs. It won’t run your house or play any music, but it provides hours of office distraction, like we need any.

Back to the floor, more later….