A few decades ago, the idea of robots in our everyday life was a thing of the future; the stuff of science fiction. Today, chances are you have already encountered some form of artificial intelligence gadget mimicking human movements and activities. All the major players in the field of technology are focusing on robotics, and in the next few years, commercial robots are bound to flood the market, advertising all sorts of useful and unexpected skills.
The scope of artificial intelligence and robotics research is so vast that there are thousands of teams around the world working on perfecting the robotic skills that might one day combine to form a truly human-like robot. While today’s retail market only offers robotic assistants that can perform specific sets of tasks and are generally limited to one industry, as information is passed on between researchers and labs — between Stanford, Harvard, MIT, Google, and Microsoft — it won’t be long until someone puts out a robot that can do it all, from comforting you in a time of need to sending your girlfriend flowers for Valentine’s and writing that report your boss has been nagging you about for weeks. As of today, robots, chatbots, and other forms of AI can already carry out a set of really cool skills that can save you time, trouble, and even hard-earned cash.
10. Carry Your Furniture up the Stairs
Recently, Google unveiled a bipedal robot at the New Economic Summit in Japan. It was shown carrying heavy loads and going up and down stairs flawlessly. In the grand scheme of human health, walking up and down stairs can be beneficial, but carrying heavy loads at the same time can damage your back. For people with problematic backs or herniated discs, Google’s SCHAFT robot can be a godsend. But even if you have no such conditions, having a robotic assistant with that particular skill can free up time and energy to focus on more interesting and profitable activities. The robot, originally a product of Boston Dynamics, can carry up to 132 pounds and is capable of walking on beach rocks and other uneven terrain.
9. Cook and Serve Michelin-Star Entrées
This might be very dramatic news for chefs everywhere and aspiring actors in LA, but it is nonetheless true. While a Chinese restaurant’s experience with robot waiters was a self-confessed disaster, in a controlled environment, like a home or an office, the robots might have thrived. What they were not prepared to do was handle the unpredictability of a restaurant floor, and the technology to fix that is already available. Savioke’s Relay delivery robot has been quite successful in the hotel industry, and chef robots that can cook 2,000 Michelin-star dishes are set to go on sale in 2017. Your star chef-server robotic assistant might soon make going out to a fancy restaurant completely obsolete.
8. Fix You a Perfect Vodka Tonic
The most prominent example of this are the two robotic bartenders on Royal Caribbean’s “Quantum of the Seas.” According to one reviewer, they can efficiently pick from over 100 bottles, pour the exact amount of juices and other ingredients into a cocktail glass, and even do a little dance after they are done with the drinks. Robotic bartenders are also being featured at the April 2016 NVIDIA conference. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could ask your robotic assistant to pour you your favorite Martini after a long day of work? If that sounds appealing, perhaps you should check out Somabar, a robotic bartender available for pre-ordering on Kickstarter.
7. Spice up Your Job by Doing All the Boring Stuff
Robots have been shown to be more efficient than humans at repetitive tasks like legal document review and the work of bank tellers. Blackstone Discovery, a company based in Silicon Valley is already offering robotic paralegal services, and “personal teller machines” have replaced bank tellers at several Coastal Federal Credit Union branches.
In the very near future, humans will mostly be in charge of tasks that require the use of their brains, and the more mechanical type of work will be assigned to robots. At home like in the office, personal robotic assistants will make our lives more interesting by simply taking tedious, repetitive tasks off our hands.
6. Make Small Talk with Your Clients
The coming generation of robots will have a lot of personality, judging by the massive amounts of writers who are being employed in Silicon Valley to create back stories and shape the overall persona of virtual assistants. These creative minds are trying to answer questions like, “Is the AI a Republican? Where were they born? Do they use emojis in text messages?”.
Judging by the 35 million dollars that have poured into virtual assistant startups in 2015, the personality aspect of robotic assistants will continue to develop in 2016. The new generation of robots will have tastes and preferences, they will be able to make jokes and comment on the weather. Who knows, perhaps they will even flirt with you a little…
5. Appeal Against Parking Tickets
A 19-year old British student from Stanford designed a robotic lawyer that has already appealed over $4 million dollars in parking tickets in the UK alone. The service, which is basically a chat interface, is already available in New York.
Imagine all the unpleasantness your future robotic assistant might be able to handle using this type of AI, not to mention the instant reduction of legal bills.
4. Help Your Kids with Homework
We have all been there. We’ve already been to school. Why should we have to do homework all over again? What happens when teachers are teaching things differently and we coach our kids wrong inadvertently? If you are too tired after work to work on your child’s math or history lesson, the homework robot is definitely for you.
Blue Frog Robotics released a home assistant robot called Buddy in mid 2015. Among other things, it has a kid-friendly look and is capable of helping children with their homework. Buddy was not designed specifically for this task, and it looks like this type of family companion robot will usually include some similar set of skills.
3. Assemble All Kinds of IKEA
It is time to say goodbye to IKEA’s hieroglyphic instructions for assembling furniture. Robotic assistants that can make a perfect cupboard of Scandinavian inspiration out of that bag of arbitrarily-shaped pieces of wood have been around for years. MIT has developed an IKEAbot capable of assembling furniture without any instructions, simply by putting pieces together the way they are supposed to go, until the intended piece of furniture is put together. DIY enthusiasts might not be so happy to relinquish the challenge to a robot, but anyone who has wasted hours trying to figure out IKEA’s grownup puzzles will surely appreciate this robotic skill.
2. Give You a Free Therapy Session
The DARPA-funded SimSensei project is at the cutting edge in terms of designing AI capable of displaying artificial emotional intelligence and human-like empathy. SimSensei’s Ellie is a virtual therapist that has been proven to perform as well as, or even better than a human therapist at the clinical engagement of patients.
So far, Ellie has been occupied with treating military personnel for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The robot’s eyes feature webcams that are used to track and decode facial expressions and body language. Through a microphone, Ellie does not only record what is being said, but also non-verbal input to gauge her counterpart’s moods and emotions.
Imagine how convenient it might be to have a therapy session, or even someone to empathize with your problems, the minute you need it, in the comfort of your home.
1. Go to Work While You Lie on the Beach
Ever dreamed of being able to take a job in bustling Manhattan while spending your idyllic days in a quiet Orange County suburb or a Caribbean beach? For many employees at Double Robotics, this dream is already a reality. The Bay area based company has many remote workers who basically send a robot to work in their place. Double robots are five feet tall and feature a tablet at the front of the head, where the user’s face is usually projected. They can have meetings, find their way around the office, and do virtually everything a regular employee is expected to do.
Besides letting their own employees use them, Double Robotics rents the robots for a few hundred a month. They are also available for purchase for a few thousand. Fancy one to extend your vacation this Summer?