What counts as a robot now anyway?

If you google search ‘Robots at CES’ what do you expect to pop up?

My instant assumption is that I’ll be faced with some sort of electronic, shiny creature with large eyes that will interact with me in the most human way possible.

And I’m not wrong, at CES there are plenty of those. Take Lovot for example, which is grabbing many people’s attention this year. For around $5000, this pet companion that somewhat resembles a unicorn-penguin is basically designed to make you happy. The robot has a camera, microphone and sensors all over its body so that it will not only react to the caresses you bestow but will also learn the contact it receives and create a bespoke and more ‘meaningful’ relationship with the owner. No need for all that expensive pet insurance then… Oh and by the way, to keep your Lovot happy it’s advised that you buy two. Because robots need their own companions, right?

Lovot seems to have caught everyone’s imagination because it engages and interacts with us in an intelligent way. Even though it’s the least ‘helpful’ of the robots exhibited this year, it seems to be one of the most popular.

But it makes you think, if what we want from robots is an engaging and intelligent interaction, then aren’t we already there? And what counts as a robot anyway?

Alexa needs no introduction. She’s a pretty popular lady and certainly ticks the boxes for being engaging and interactive. She’s also the voice of more than 20,000 smart devices this year at CES. From speakers to lights, to locks to toilets, she’s everywhere and she’s happy to keep you company on top of carrying out your everyday commands and tasks.

Every year at CES there’s a new and more ‘human-like’ robot to play with. But while films like iRobot placed a pretty high benchmark, do consumers really want this hyper-realistic robotic machinery around the house, or have the voice assistants snuck up on the inside and won the race?

Are we instead simply happy with our ‘robotic’ interactions and AI assistants being heard and not seen?

By: Rachel Ballard

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