Opinion: Why are robots still so rubbish!

Columns & Opinion, Robots

Jon_small_new.jpgSo there I was on Friday, snowed under with work and wanting the weekend to arrive but take a bit longer than usual to get here so I could finish off everything I needed to do. And then it struck me, what I actually needed was some help around the house. No, I don’t mean an eastern European cleaner, or a girlfriend – the first is too expensive and the second a lot of hassle, or should that be the other way around?

And then I read on Tech Digest about the iRobot Looj: the robot that cleans your gutter. Now that’s more like it! A robot for cleaning my gutter, I WANT ONE! The fact my gutter doesn’t need cleaning and is currently free of leaves, is of no consequence.

Then it also struck me? Why are robots so rubbish! Surely by now, someone should have invented one that really does help you out at home. After all, this is the 21st Century. Surely we don’t have to wait until the 25th Century like Buck Rogers to get a talking robot assistant?

Course there are robotic vacumns but they take so much setting up, it’s quicker to clean my own floor. It’s the same with the lawn, why get an electronic thing to mow it when I have to spend a couple of hours putting sensors in all around the grass.

Even the gutter thing now seems a bit silly, but it’s still the coolest one I’ve seen – and none of my mates have one so therefore…

iRobot also has the ConnectR – a ‘virtual communication and interaction’ robot designed for families. It hooks up to your home Wi-Fi network, and lets you dial in remotely to have videochats and VoIP calls with people in the house (or pets). Fun yes, for five minutes, but how’s that going to help me get things done.

I need a WiFi companion downstairs right now who I can send commands to so that it brings me up a cuppa mid-story, makes my lunch and has a quick tidy up for me, while doing the washing up with his or hers third robotic arm. If it whispers sweet nothings in my ear at bedtime, all the better – presuming it is female – but surely the time has come for life to become far easier and far more automated.

A robotic oven for example connected to the fridge/freezer to take food and cook it without a human hand getting involved. As I type there’s a TV advert on for a new can opener from Culinaire that opens it for you. Just plop it on top, press the button and it’ll turn round and take off the lid. Now that’s more like it. It’s small ideas like that that lead to big discoveries and the time has come for some of them in the robotic world.

Honda may have Asimo, but he can’t do much yet other than walk up some steps. Teach him to rustle up a bacon sarnie and I’d happily take a wander downstairs to collect it from him!

Jonathan Weinberg is a technology/games and consumer journalist who between writing stories, is now going to invent a robot – and it’ll be mine, all mine I tell you…

Gutter-cleaning robot
iRobot launch
iRobot photos

Jonathan Weinberg
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