Will it do my gift swapping too?

I have been asking for new ways to use robots at home – and it seems a trend is to have your robots perform tasks for those of us, that cannot do them ourselves. In Japan at the International Robot Exhibition in November I saw a number of such robots. My general impresssion was that they lack a lot of work before really becomming a practical help at home. Yes a robot can be asked to pick up a can of green tea/ a bottle of juice/ a can of beer or whatever in the fridge – companies such as Frauenhofer, TMSUK and many others had robots exhibited that could do this, but a common trait was that it requires a LOT of patience to wait for the stuff to be deliverede, and the ability for the robots to adabt to changes are still not quite convinsing.

The latest of such trends in personal robotics seems to be to have the robots do our shopping. Personally I could have used that during December when the flu, work and natural procrastination kept me out of the christmas shopping game until the very latest moment. But frankly I still think it would take far more time to program the damn thing to know what to pick up, than it would to just go out and get it done.

The RoboVieII for example helps elderly people do the shopping – but it requires you to enter your grocery list by phone and transmit it to the robot. In the video of the robot it is shown to follow a 67 years old lady around the shop. carrying the groceries and offering suggestions as to what to buy – I just still don’t see it as a great help. The customer has to wait for the robot on several occasions and – my limited japaneses taken into account – as far as I can tell it is dispensing pleasantries and small talk rather than actually giving valuable suggestions.

TMSUK has a different approach where they let one of their robots be controlled from the home by telephone connection, so that an elderly woman can stay at home and let the robot go to the department store with her grand daughter – it still seems a bit strange to me to create such a remote controlled physical being which is slow, and requires just about as much attention and help as a person in a wheelchair. In stead shopping from a website or having a selection of hats brought to you home seems like a much easier way to go, and it is hard for me to see the extra benefit you get from using a robot as your stand-in.

The concept is nice, but in my opinion a lot of work is needed before this type of robot will actually be a help. For example you can add a ‘touch-and-smell-printer’ so that you can stay at home, and still touch and smell the apples before you choose them – or the robots can be turned into completely authonomous shoppers without the inclination to do impulse buying.

When a robt one day can actually be let loose to do your shopping by itself – then it will be a help – until then I will prefer to go shopping by myself – if not for any other reason then just so that I can taste all the free samples myself.

Inspiration: Gizmag


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