What does the future hold for our ‘plastic pals that are fun to be with’? Image: meddygarnet/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Topic: Emerging Tech

Tomorrow’s robot world: From cleaners to the cloud

Summary: Robots are everywhere at this year’s CES. But what does the future hold for our ‘plastic pals who are fun to be with’?

By Simon Bisson for 500 words into the future | January 11, 2013 — 11:17 GMT (03:17 PST)

There’s not much new in home appliances these days, even if you count Android-enhanced fridges. Where there is innovation, it’s in automation. What we’re seeing is, quite simply, ‘The Rise Of The Robots’ — this time, however, they’re not here to destroy all humans: instead, they’re here to do the housework.

We’ve spent much of this year’s CES looking at home robots, and talking to thinkers at various robotics companies. The result has been some very interesting conversations, and a meditation on the future of the home robot.

Complex or simple?

There are two different types of home robot: some use complex software to map out environments before handling tasks, while others use emergent behaviours to turn simple actions into what seem like complex — almost intelligent — operations. It’s a fundamental philosophical issue: do we make our robots complex and general purpose, or do we produce simpler, single-purpose devices? The former are often large and expensive, but can cope with a wide range of problems; the latter are simpler, often single purpose, and a lot cheaper.

Read more: Tomorrow's robot world: From cleaners to the cloud | ZDNet.

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