Amid all the chaos of CES 2018, one thing was crystal clear: self-driving cars will be taxiing people around sooner than you think.
The advancements made by self-driving cars were the major takeaway from CES. Consumers won’t be able to buy one anytime soon, but consumers in certain parts of the world will soon be taking rides in self-driving taxis and shuttles.
But self-driving cars weren’t the only impressive robots at CES. Here is our recap of the best robots at CES 2018. What were your favorite robots at CES? Let us know in the comments.
There were so many self-driving cars at CES that it’s hard to pick a favorite. Aptiv and Lyft certainly made the most noise with their partnership, which provided more than 400 rides to the public over the course of five days in Las Vegas. According to the companies, 99 percent of the miles driven during these demos were done in fully autonomous mode – with a combined rating of 4.997 from passengers.
We didn’t ride along with Aptiv, but Jalopnik recounts its demo that required a human safety driver to take over as the self-driving car apparently didn’t know how to maneuver around an idle car.
We did, however, ride in Autoliv’s LIV 2.0 platform and in Torc Robotics’ Asimov (clever) self-driving car. There were no issues with Autoliv’s demo, which was conducted in a parking lot on a controlled course, but our ride in Asimov required human intervention. While driving on I-15 in the lane second to the right, a car changed multiple lanes and merged between us and the car ahead of us. The car that changed lanes slowed down, but Asimov wasn’t slowing down fast enough. Our human safety driver took control momentarily before putting Asimov back into autonomous mode. We then successfully exited the highway, came to a stop light, and pulled a u-ie before being dropped off.
Both incidents are snafus, no question, but have you ever driven through Las Vegas? It’s a nightmare without an extra 200,000 people in town. The fact that these self-driving cars were near-flawless is a testament to how advanced the technology is. Asimov successfully handled 99.9 percent of our ride, including lane changes, busy intersections, crossing pedestrians, the Vegas Strip, U-turns, you name it. As did Aptiv. In fact, Aptiv and Lyft have already announced their expanding their self-driving pilot beyond CES. Torc has partnered with AAA as part of a broader testing program being rolled out by AAA Northern California, Nevada and Utah.
And we didn’t even mention Waymo’s on-going tests in Arizona or the pilots Voyage launched with the world’s largest retirement community. Voyage will soon test its Level 4 self-driving cars as taxis for the 125,000 senior citizens living at The Villages, a 40-square-mile retirement community in Florida.
By the end of 2018, level 5 self-driving cars will be rolled out in geo-fenced areas for ride-sharing services.
My Special Aflac Duck
Social robots for the home still have a way to go, but the My Special Aflac Duck is companion robot that is already perfect. This robot duck, made by Aflac and health and research company Sproutel, is designed to help children fighting cancer. And there aren’t many things worse in this world than children fighting cancer.
The goal for children battling cancer to become the duck’s caretaker, feeding it, bathing it, and even pretending to give it chemotherapy through a tube attached to the duck’s chest. It’s an amazing use case, which is something many consumer robotics companies miss on.
Disclaimer: Aelous made our list because it represents the household helper robot we’ve all been waiting for. The company claims it can fetch you a beer, mop or vacuum your floor, pick up stuffed animals off the floor, move furniture and much more. At face value, it appears to bring us one step closer to Rosie the Robot.
However, Aelous’ demos were extremely limited at CES, and it will be priced at “less than the cost of a family of four vacation overseas.” So we’re not quite sure about the commercial viability of Aelous just yet, but as we discussed in our CES session “Designing AI-Powered Robots,” manipulation in the home is the holy grail for consumer robotics. Aelous, perhaps, is a baby step in the right direction.
If we had a “Most Improved Robot Award,” Foldimate would have taken home the honor. Foldimate has been around for a few years now, but says its newest model will be available by the end of 2019. Watch the video below of me feeding clothes into Foldimate, which claims it can fold an entire load of laundry (20-40 items) in under four minutes.
FoldiMate can fold shirts and pants from children’s clothes to adult size XXL. It can also fold towels and pillowcases, but not socks or underwear – yet. You need to feed each individual item into Foldimate’s clipping mechanism, so humans aren’t completely spared of this dull task. But Foldimate is much quicker at folding laundry than competitor Laundroid, which often ate the clothes it was folding and took nearly 15 minutes to do the job.
Foldimate says its robot will be sold for less than $1000. It’s hoping to partner with a popular appliance company to help expedite its go-to-market time.
Whether it be delivery robots or drones, robots of all shapes and sizes are trying to solve the last-mile conundrum. Add this Robomart self-driving store to the mix. The concept is quite futuristic, but that’s what CES is all about.
Essentially, Robomart is a small grocery store in the form of an autonomous vehicle that brings food to you. Retailers would lease Robomarts for 24 months at a time, which includes a wireless charger, a fleet management system, and a white label app. The company is part of NVIDIA’s Inception Program and says its Level 5 autonomous vehicles can make local deliveries at a speed of about 25 miles per hour and can travel about 70 miles on a full charge.
Robomart is awaiting its Autonomous Vehicle Testing Permit from the California DMV. It expects to have it soon and plans to launch a pilot program in the Bay Area this summer.
Intuition Robotics’ ElliQ
The week of CES couldn’t have been any kinder to Intuition Robotics. Its ElliQ robot for the elderly won named a CES Best of Innovation Winner in the Household category, and Intuition raised $6 million, bringing its total funding to $22 million.
The “active aging companion” is a tabletop appliance with a swivel head for interaction and voice and tablet interfaces. ElliQ is entering beta testing in California and Florida and is scheduled to be in production by the end of 2018. People often ask us what robots they can expect to see in households soon, and ElliQ is one answer.
Motiv Robotics’ RoboMantis
Motiv Robotic unveiled RoboMantis for the first time during CES. The four-legged, wheeled robot can take on everything from emergency response to farming. The RoboMantis on display had just one arm, but it’s modular and can be easily customized, according to the company.
RoboMantis isn’t designed to move quickly, but the company said it can move at speeds of up to 30 miles per hour and even climb stairs. RoboMantis operates semi-autonomously, works on battery power or as a tethered system, uses encrypted wireless communication, and is open source.
Misty Robotics’ Misty 1
Misty Robotics, a Sphero spin-off, finally came out of hiding at CES. It was giving private demos of Misty 1, a $1500 robot designed for developers. The company plans to release a mass-produced model later in 2018, the Misty 2, as it aims to get a robot in every home and office.
To make it easy to program for non-roboticists, Misty 1 can used Blockly, a simple drag-and-drop programming language being used in STEM classes. Think of Misty 1 as a slightly cheaper TurtleBot. It’s head consists of a 4.3-inch LCD display for facial expressions, an occipital light sensor, HD camera and far-field microphone array. Misty 1 also has speakers and RGB LED, as well as sensors in the front and rear for avoiding objects. It’s all powered by two Snapdragon processors.
Omron’s FORPHEUS Ping Pong Robot
As far as we know, there are no plans to commercialize this ping-pong robot, it’s just a way to show off Omron’s automation and AI capabilities. Nonetheless, it was quite fascinating and very capable, as you can see our video above.
FORPHEUS, or the “Future Omron Robotics Technology for Exploring Possibility of Harmonized aUtomation with Sinic Theoretics,” swings a paddle with a robot arm that’s controlled by AI and a 5-axis motor system. It uses three cameras to track the ball and its opponent. FORPHEUS’ AI can actually judge the skill level of its opponent. Based on that judgement, FORPHEUS adjusts its skill level to try and maximize the potential for a successful rally.
Soft Robotics’ Smart Pick
Cambridge, Mass-based Soft Robotics won the CES Innovation Award in the Robotics & Drones category for its SuperPick. Designed for e-commerce and retail environments. SuperPick combines the power of soft robotics with AI to enable automation of highly unstructured tasks like bin picking, sorting, and order fulfillment.
While in Las Vegas, Soft Robotics CEO Carl Vause demoed SuperPick to us, controlling a robot 2,700-plus miles back at Soft Robotics’ headquarters. He did all this through a web browser interface, simply touching the screen to correct the robot when it missed an object.
Here’s a look at SuperPick:
And here’s a look at SuperPick be controlled via a web browser: