Before the first day of CES 2017 had concluded, robots had already earned their lion share of attention. From dancing robots that would put a middle school gym to shame, to a gaming robot tournament on the TechCrunch stage, our little mechanical friends were everywhere.
Among the various technology fields, where it can be difficult to mark significant progress every year, the robotics marketplace stood out this year with a number of products that seem poised to tangibly impact our lives. It’s also becoming clear that although the industry is still in its early stages and experimenting with different applications of robotic technology, certain pillars are advancing more impressively than others.
While Westworld-esque androids may be a few years away, technology experts are already making our lives easier and safer with new robotic innovations. We’ve partnered with Verizon to bring you our favorites from CES 2017 in Las Vegas.
Robots in the Home
When the Zoomba autonomous vacuum was introduced back in 2002, the general public started to get a feel for how technology could alleviate some of our mundane, everyday chores. Today, we’ve moved way beyond simple carpet cleaners to window cleaners, grill cleaners, and even an autonomous laundry folder.
Ecovacs Robotics showed off their WinBot, a fully autonomous window cleaning robot that uses suction and smart sensors to cover every smudgy fingerprint. It seemed to do the job well, but the old-school extension cord requirement made it feel less impressive.
The aptly named GrillBot has a new Bluetooth app that enables remote control and has reportedly had huge success in Texas and anywhere else people are tired of scraping the gristle off after a cookout.
But the star of the home-focused robots was clearly the Laundroid, a slickly designed gray rectangle that turns your freshly dried laundry into neat stacks of folded clothes. The Beta version is going on sale in March of 2017, but perhaps even more exciting is their hope for 2018: Through a partnership with Panasonic, they’re aiming to have a fully automatic washer/dryer/folder combo that only requires loading dirty laundry into the washer. Next time you return, you’ll have folded and sorted — thanks to AI that recognizes each family member’s items — clothing.
Robots have also made huge strides in the field of education, helping young people learn more about robotics, coding, and how technology can improve our lives.
One company, Abilix, showed a humanoid robot model that allows students to program dance moves and other commands, giving them a fun, customizable presentation. Another, CellRobot, had an easy-to-use robotics kit to introduce young children to the process.
Ozobot was giving impressive demos of their new Avengers line of robots, a new take on their product. The Ozobot line allows kids to begin experimenting with coding through drawings and colors. The small robots perform differently depending on the colors they encounter, giving children a visual representation of how codes are interpreted. The product seems to be a strong bridge between the digital and physical for kids, and feels more tangible than computer science is typically.
Through these demos, it’s clear that robots are becoming democratized and modular, allowing for kids and people to play with and customize their robots in fun and interesting ways.
The final pillar where the most action was happening was mobility. Robots are great for making our lives more convenient and helping our kids learn, but they can also be a useful tool for people with disabilities or physical limitations.
WHILL had an intimidating obstacle course set up for their Model M personal electric vehicle, complete with a gravel ramp after a tight 360-turn-platform — a course that one TechCrunch editor successfully navigated after a short 30-second tutorial. One employee explained that the high-tech wheelchair’s sleek design is meant to look active, alive, and futuristic, which it certainly does. Combined with an impressive battery system, the Model M is a powerful tool for people who have trouble getting around.
Segway was also present with their Segway Robot which debuted at CES 2016. The news this year is that it’s now open to developer partners who can tinker with the autonomous butler’s capabilities.
CES 2017 is full of exciting new concepts that will change the way we live. As our everyday activities continue to further integrate with our smartphones, we’ll have more and more control at our fingertips. Verizon keeps you connected to all the things that matter, with the latest devices on the best network.