To date, serious, practical robotics have been the domain of industry and the military:
Ultra-cool stuff but it doesn’t do much for me professionally, unless my target market is infantrymen or reconnaissance units.
And until recently, consumer robots have been mainly clever, cute, and expensive toys:
Now companies like iRobot Corporation are selling affordable, practical domestic robots to the consumer market. iRobot sells products that sweep, vacuum, or wash your floor; they sell robots that clean your pool or gutter.
But it is their new product that has piqued my interest beyond my normal fascination with robots. For less than $500, consumers will be able to buy the iRobot ConnectR, a virtual presence bot that essentially attaches a two-way video to a mobile robot and slaps on a broadband wireless connection so you can visit virtually:
If such products take off, and I’m confident they will because think the ability to use robotics for social purposes has great consumer appeal, then consumer robotics deserves scrutiny as an online marketing platform.
The larger social question is whether such products, by taking over our annoying daily chores, will produce our long-awaited domestic utopia or the sci-fi dystopia we all know and love:
Or perhaps our humanoid companions will simply prove insufferable: