Hitting the show floor at CES can be something of a challenge. There are so many choices, it’s almost impossible to figure out where to even start. So this year, I got to narrow my focus to just one area — robotics — and it made my job a lot easier. Or it should have. Turns out, there are so many choices in the field of robotics, I was back where I started.
It’s important to know what you’re looking for in the field of robotics. In my case, I decided to focus on the most classic “Rosie the Robot” description — a personal machine that can follow you around and perform some tasks for you. That’s a very narrow definition, but as it turns out, we’re not very far away from having those devices greet us when we come home. I was excited to preview a few examples at CES.
Here are some of the coolest robots we got to see at CES 2019!
Samsung surprised a lot of people when it ended its press conference with robots. Before we knew what was happening, a Samsung Bot Care rolled out onto the stage and measured the host’s heart rate and blood pressure. That was just one of three robots Samsung announced.
The Samsung Bot Care aims to offer “a healthier and more convenient life.” When you sleep, it can identify sleep patterns and disorders. When you wake up, it’ll give you a morning briefing on the weather and remind you to take your medications. It plays music with lighting effects, which Samsung calls “music therapy.” As mentioned, the bot can take your vitals, and it syncs with Samsung Health. It also includes fall detection, and can alert family or emergency services. Overall, it can be a very useful companion.
Samsung also showed us the Samsung Bot Retail. This robot is designed for retail situations, like store or shopping malls. It can lead customers to products that they’re looking for, or bring products to them in a restaurant setting. The bot features voice recognition and a touch screen for navigation. Naturally, mobile payments are integrated into the bot as well. The bot will even recognize what a shopper is wearing and make accessory recommendations.
Samsung also introduced the Samsung Bot Air, an adaptive air purifier that automatically moves around the house to where the air needs to be cleaned. While it can be handy, it’s not quite Rosie.
However, Samsung was not the only show in town.
Several UBTech offerings at the show deserve a mention. First up is the Cruzr robot, a service robot largely targeted toward the retail space, like the Samsung Bot Retail. In UBTech’s demonstration area, the Cruzr greets you at the door and pulls up information about the products in the store through a touch screen interface; then it even takes you to them.
Cruzr is a large friendly looking robot that should put customers at ease. It’s cute, like a robot puppy. I suspect it won’t be long before we start seeing these in stores, for better or for worse.
However, the star of UBTech’s show is Walker. As the name implies, walker is a free standing, free walking robot that can navigate around a home, retrieve items, open doors, and provide entertainment through its onboard speakers. In the demo, the robot walks around an apartment, hangs up a bag, retrieves a soda and can of chips, plays music, and even dances.
Walker is large and expensive. You might see it assisting people in their homes, but only if they’re rich. UBTech didn’t announce any pricing, but there are a lot of moving parts and a lot of sensors — it won’t be cheap. UBTech is confident the price will come down as the technology improves, and parts become more readily available and streamlined.
Temi is a more streamlined version of a personal assistant bot. Temi’s sensors lock onto you and follow you around the house as you need. It will greet you at the door, and it includes a Qi wireless charging pad, so you can drop your phone on it to charge. Right now Temi uses a customized interface for touch controls and can play music and other audio. Temi can also accept video calls and bring the screen to you while doing it.
You can control Temi remotely using an iOS or Android App, turning it into a security system or simply a way to check in with the family. That sort of telepresence could turn into a new way to interact with your family while away at CES for example. Temi costs $1,499, which isn’t bad for what it can do, as long as you don’t have a lot of stairs at home.
Consumer products are cool — especially ones you can buy today — but one of the more intriguing robots I came across at CES was named Misty II. Misty II is an adorable little robot, standing about 18 inches tall and jam-packed with sensors and modules to expand its capability. Misty II is being built by Misty Robotics, a company founded by Ian Bernstein, formerly with Sphero — the little ball robot of BB-8 fame. However Misty II isn’t being built for you and me, unless you’re a developer.
Bernstein is building Misty II as a platform for developers and apps that might make it a commercial product one day. Its goal is to democratize robotic development by making an easy and open platform for developers. According to Bernstein, a developer should be able to build a first “skill” for Misty II in about 30 minutes.
Misty II has built up a passionate developer community thus far, even with limited availability. Bernstein cited two remarkable examples of the development community’s passion. One developer built a virtual Misty II platform development kit so others could build and test skills without having a physical unit. Another developer set it up on a webcam and provided an interface to load skills, so others could test via live streaming.
As I mentioned before, robotics is a wide open field with applications ranging from consumer to industrial applications. In order to not write a 10,000-word epic about every robot at CES, we had to draw the line somewhere.
From toys, to transformers, to robotic arms, CES had plenty to offer for those interested in the field. Just take this example from JD Digit, which autonomously inspects server banks for malfunctions and issues within the racks. Hardware inspection is a critical part of IT infrastructure, and one a robot can perform better than a human.
What do you think? Are the robots of CES 2019 an exciting move into the future or are they still a little too niche for you thus far?
Let us know in the comments, and especially let us know if you want to read more about this fascinating field.