Why Home Robots Must Continue to Evolve

Robots are entering household use, but could single-purpose robots actually create more work for users?

Photo Caption: Despite developments in artificial intelligence, navigation, and controls, current home robots are still playing catch-up to Rosie the robot. (Photo Credit: Rachael Dunk/Cream Studios)

Other examples cited by Saenko included 4Moms, Grillbot, Clocky, and a WowWee robotic light that follows the user. “How many people need a light that follows them?” she asked. “Most of us have homes that have lights in each room.”

“These aren’t necessarily companies that will last with their current business model,” Saenko said.

Smart homes boss around humans

Sensors and controls related to “smart homes” comprise the dashboard systems category, explained Saenko. “This is somewhere between home automation and robotics.”

In the case of the Droplet smart sprinkler, “the primary value to customers is in potential water savings and in variable watering based on plant type.”

“For the past 10 years, home automation has been more about smart devices rather than robots,” Saenko said. “Nest sold well, so how many things can I make ‘smart’? Lots.”

“Trying to recreate Nest has led to more solutions than problems,” she said. “Too many smart, connected appliances that rely on us rather than invisibly help us.”

“There are too many cooks in the kitchen,” Saenko said. Utilities, Web giants, telcos, hardware developers, insurance providers, and original equipment manufacturers all have an interest in promoting smart homes, leaving homeowners pulled in all directions.

“Assembling a smart home is like orchestrating a complex construction project, only without a tendering process,” she said. “They’ve all missed one piece of the puzzle—the human shouldn’t be the integrator anymore.”

“Nobody really wants yet another app or dashboard” on their desktop, smartphone, or tablet, Saenko said. “Smart devices create massive amounts of data and then try to present it to us like it’s an asset.”

“For home automation to really work, it needs to actually be autonomous and take the human out of the operation,” Saenko opined. “I think what we’re seeking is not home automation but life automation.”

‘A physical version of Autofill’

“Seamless life automation means minimizing the user interface, or at least making it more natural,” Saenko said. “I just want to be able to wake up in my smart bed, which has given me a restful night’s sleep because it knows the ideal temperature for me.”

“Then, I want to take a shower at the right temperature, while coffee is made to my tastes,” she said. “My electric car should be fully charged, or an autonomous vehicle should arrive to take me to work.”

Automation should take the minutiae out of life ... a physical version of Autofill,” Saenko said. This would lead to the rise of man with machines.

One challenge is to make such systems prescriptive rather than waiting to responding to a human noticing a failure. “We expect [companies] to continue developing interesting use cases for home robots but to move beyond the ‘one robot per application’ paradigm of minion robots.”

“How can we capitalize on our innate love of robots by building systems that learn from our interactions with them?” Saenko asked.

About the Author

Eugene Demaitre · Eugene Demaitre is Senior Web Editor for Robotics Business Review. Prior to joining EH Publishing in the Boston area, he worked as an editor at BNA, Computerworld, and TechTarget. Demaitre has a master's degree in international affairs from the George Washington University.
Contact Eugene Demaitre: edemaitre@mygmail.ehpub.com  ·  View More by Eugene Demaitre.


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