At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2013, the big winners for the year were 3D printers; the following year, 2014, exoskeletons were the anointed technology, which over the course of the ensuing twelve months proved correct. This year, personal robots are in the wings readying for a breakout year.
2015 is quickly shaping up to be the year of the personal robot.
Steep demand for home robot helpers is clearly evident
Sure, laundry and food preparation are still high on the list of “must haves” when it comes to what people want from robot helpers. Interestingly, non-physical labor is nestled high up amid all that heavy lifting and tedium of doing chores.
Fact is, all the current robot-helper advertising featuring carpet vacuuming, grass mowing, pool tending and gutter cleaning–for which robots are racking up millions of dollars in sales–represents but half of the robot assistance for which people are readily willing to buy.
For 2015, consumers are more than ready for personal robots and have the money to spend.
Robotics Business Review’s Consumer Preference Survey taken in September of 2014 clearly showed pent-up demand and consumer willingness to spend $3,000. Adding credence to that recognition of consumer demand is Ericsson’s 2015 Consumer Lab survey (see graphic below) where consumer preferences are ranked by what functions consumers want robots to perform.
It’s refreshing to see that people are thoughtfully pragmatic when creating a wish list of helper needs for their households. They don’t overreach with their expectations.
People seem to be willing to wait on the near-term household help while using what’s available for now.
Teach me how to use new technology; advice on what to eat; help children with homework; and keep me company at home, are the top vote-getters in the Ericsson survey.
Over 40 percent of surveyed Smartphone owners would like a domestic robot that could teach them how to use new technology, how to cook healthier meals, give them advice on what to eat, and help them move around at home–even drive them to places. Robots could also help out with tasks beyond the purely functional. More than a third of those asked say that a robot could keep them company.
Actually, these are far from new consumer desires as evidenced in a rigorous IEEE global study from 2008 What do people expect from robots?
Three in the wings; one already in the marketplace
Three personal robots are in the wings: The Three Amigos: Jimmy, Pepper and Jibo. Of the three getting ready to come on stage, Intel’s Jimmy will go on sale late in 2015; Softbank’s Pepper is on sale in Tokyo, and will be rolled out to the U.S. mid-year (more than likely sold in 2600 of Softbank’s Sprint stores. Price: $1900); and Jibo’s Jibo will be out in a developer edition late in 2015.
All three are primed to accommodate consumer preferences from the Ericsson survey: teach me how to use new technology; advice on what to eat; help children with homework; and keep me company at home. And each, priced well under the $3,000 that consumers said they are willing to spend on a personal robot, means that once pricey consumer robots are now well within even modest household incomes worldwide.
“The second most desired ability for domestic robots is to teach consumers how to use the latest technology. This was the same both globally and in Shanghai.” As explained by Xu Xiaoli, Northeast Asia regional director of Ericsson Consumer Lab, “this function was especially popular among older respondents.”
Ready for purchase–now!
At CES 2015, one personal robot was already waiting for buyers: the FURo-i Home robot from Korea’s Future Robot.
CK Song, founder and CEO of Future Robot, sat comfortably on a white leather couch in his spacious expo at the Robotics Trends’ Robot Marketplace watching his FURo-i cavort with an aide.
The sleek, diminutive robot, rolling around beneath an ad banner of Connecting Family, is Song’s answer to hectic family life that needs a little help keeping together and in contact.
“FURo is on sale right now,” he said, proudly noting that he?s first in the marketplace with a personal robot, “and we’re selling them worldwide.”
Song says the FURo will retail for about $1,200 (well within the consumer sweet spot) and he hopes to sell 10,000 units during 2015.
The BBC’s Leo Kelion was duly impressed: CES 2015: The robots moving in to your house. “It’s a sleek-looking sensor-laden cone on wheels topped by a tablet that displays a friendly-looking animated droid’s face.”
“You can verbally instruct it to take control of internet-controlled smart devices – telling it to turn lights, music and heating on or off – use it as a teaching aid for your children, or take advantage of its health check software to help care for elderly relations.”
Tomorrow, during Robotics Trends’ half-day conference session on the incipient personal robot phenomenon, Song will take the stage to introduce his new machine.