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Japan Robotics

The State of Household Robots 102

paulelaguna writes "The dream of owning a household robot is starting to become reality, particularly for people in Japan. There are robots to help you do the dishes, move furniture, and even robotic wheelchairs to help you get around. Really, the only question that remains for us is when do we move?"
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The State of Household Robots

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  • Not new. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 06, 2010 @04:49AM (#33486982)

    There are robots to help you do the dishes

    We have those here too. They're called 'dishwashers'.

  • by AliasMarlowe ( 1042386 ) on Monday September 06, 2010 @04:56AM (#33487006) Journal
    appears to be malfunctioning...
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Autonomous Wheels.... Also I love the way they have a big red and yellow STOP YOU'RE SQUISHING GRANNY button. next up tentacle rape robots...
  • by Nursie ( 632944 ) on Monday September 06, 2010 @05:08AM (#33487042)

    I guess "Roomba" is no longer exciting though, right?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      They will be more exciting when iRobot starts making them more reliable and sell them at a reasonable price again. The low end one used to be around $100 (I owned several) and it worked just as well as the more expensive ones, without some useless features like self-charging, and it came with replacement filters and two virtual walls. These days the cheapest one is $200 (basically the same robot as the one that used to be $100) plus you get zero filters and zero virtual walls. On top of that those are hard
      • by Nursie ( 632944 )

        IIRC the 5 series are a newer generation. I couldn't tell you if they clean better than the older ones as I never had an older one. I payed 400 (AUD) for mine and am quite happy with it.

        But then I suppose we're still in the "entertaining novelty" phase. It did come with a wall and a filter.

      • I'm a bit shocked they worked well at all? I saw one in a shop ages ago and it just didn't look powerful enough to pick up much.
        Do you use it on carpet or wood floors? How does it deal with going around dining table and chairs? Does it miss the edges of the room out? Thanks. I may get one.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by takev ( 214836 )
          I have one (a 500) it works very well. It may not be as powerful as a normal vacuum cleaner, but it makes up for it by vacuuming longer and more often (you can run it daily). In fact it cleans better than I do myself, it also can go easily underneath the couch and bed.

          It runs at my home on carpet and wood floor, and I know someone who has the scooba which cleans a wood floor using a water based solution as well. You do need to be sure there are no cable on the floor that it can suck up and get entangled wit
          • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

            by laura42 ( 1893282 )
            What you need is a robot to empty your Roomba for you.
            • by Nursie ( 632944 )

              Funny you may be but there was a self-emptying one by Karcher. Unfortunately it was two or three times the price, and you still had to empty its base station once in a while...

          • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

            How easy is it to empty? I have dust allergies so I got a Dyson DC26 (arthritis too so I wanted a light one) and it is quite easy to empty out into a bag without getting the dust everywhere. My old Dyson suffered from that.

            Having my room cleaned every day, even if not perfectly, would be wonderful.

            • by takev ( 214836 )
              The Roomba has a quite small bin inside, which you open by pushing a button and sliding it out. The bin has two parts, one for large parts like hairs and a part for dust.

              The large part has tooth which you need to clean with for example your finger. The small part you open up to show the filter, you can open this inside the trashcan and shake it out by tapping the filter.

              There is also a compartment with two brushes, The two brushes need also to be cleaned from hairs getting stuck at the ends.
        • by 1s44c ( 552956 )

          I'm a bit shocked they worked well at all? I saw one in a shop ages ago and it just didn't look powerful enough to pick up much.

          Do you use it on carpet or wood floors? How does it deal with going around dining table and chairs? Does it miss the edges of the room out? Thanks. I may get one.

          I have one and it works perfectly. It does take some time to clean a room due to taking an erratic path around the room modeled on the way insects move but it does at least as good a job as a human with a vacuum cleaner would. If you get shoe laces and loose nokia chargers off the floor it will work around everything else. Changing from hard floors to carpet just works but it can't do deep pile carpets. It has a little spinning brush that gets right up to wall edges, in that regard it's way better than a ma

          • by Nursie ( 632944 )

            Oh, nokia chargers. It loves nokia chargers! I've had to hunt around the house for mine. That and occasionally it moves the doormat halfway across the room. Otherwise I love it!

      • I just bought my first Roomba (yes, first - I would buy a second one for sure!). They are not for sale in my country (Mexico), so I took the opportunity during a trip to New York. I didn't have much time, so I didn't shop around - and was prepared to pay up to $350 (yes, typical series 500 price). They are not available at every large store (i.e. I went to three Best Buys, with no luck, even if their system said they had in stock), and found a 400-series model at a Target. 200 dollars. Two virtual walls, on

      • They will be more exciting when iRobot...

        And they will be more exciting over the top when they look like Galaxina [] or Cherry 2000! []

      • by cynyr ( 703126 )

        do you have any pets with fur? how does the roomba handle a house with 2 dogs and a cat?

        • It does fine with fur (I have two cats). It breaks down a lot though, I've gone through 2-3 per year on average. I have a slightly thicker carpet than usual so maybe that's why. They work better on bare floor or thin carpets.
        • We have 3 dogs and 1 cat. The two smaller dogs and the cat don't shed much, but the larger dog (a lab) sheds like crazy. We have 2 Roombas that we got about 3 years ago when the 500 series started coming out. We no longer use them regularly because it's too much of a hassle.

          First, they need to be cleaned at least daily with this much pet hair. Cleaning takes at least 5 minutes; if I just spent that time vacuuming normally for 5 minutes a day, the floors would be cleaner.

          Often they won't even complete a

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      How about the XKCD Pet Netbook Robot []? :) It's finally been turned into a reality using a One Laptop Per Child XO-1 [] + and an Arduino microcontroller [] via Project Butia []!
  • by Anrego ( 830717 ) * on Monday September 06, 2010 @05:21AM (#33487090)

    I think this is one of those things that sounds a lot cooler and more practical than it is in actual implementation.

    I'd rather a dishwasher wash my dishes then some humanoid robot.. for the plain fact that a purpose built machine is going to be a lot better at it.

    I think there's lots of room for automated or semi-automated machines which I guess you could call robots.. but a "robotic butler" I don't see happening.

    Personally I'm waiting for an automated lawn mower that doesn't suck!

    • by takowl ( 905807 ) on Monday September 06, 2010 @05:24AM (#33487100)

      Personally I'm waiting for an automated lawn mower that doesn't suck!

      You're doing it wrong. It's not a lawnmower, it's a vacuum cleaner.

    • I wouldn't mind having a vaguely humanoid robot around the house for when we are away. It could feed the pets and make the house look lived in.

    • by roman_mir ( 125474 ) on Monday September 06, 2010 @05:32AM (#33487118) Homepage Journal

      I am waiting for a robot maid to put dishes into a dishwasher, to clean up surfaces, take out garbage and to be able to sort the recyclables out, to put clothes into a washer, move the from washer to dryer, to iron what has to be ironed, to fold the stuff and put it onto the right shelves, to vacuum clean and to wash floors, to shine shoes and to be able to cook, to go to stores, and pick up what's needed, to walk the dog and to satisfy me sexually.

      What I am going to get:

      a silly looking thing, that'll put the garbage in the dishwasher, recycle the washer, take out the surfaces, move the right shelves into the dryer, then take them out, iron and fold them, vacuum clean the fridge, place the dirty clothes into it, shine the dog, then cook it, and drive the car through a store.

      But you know what? As long as it satisfies me sexually I don't really mind that much.

      • Good luck with your quest.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        Your post inspired me to type in a url and guess what comes up: [] Maybe you can find what you need there.
        • well, it's always a pleasure to know that a random comment I make can inspire somebody actually to do something. Once I figure out how to inspire people to do something that is actually useful, I'll have the solution to the failing economy thing, I'll start charging for my comments!

      • by zaax ( 637433 )
        I've already got one of thoughs - it's called 'The Wife'. I am still waiting for a copy of the police accident report on how she put the car thought the store window.
        • As long as it satisfies me sexually I don't really mind that much.

          I've already got one of thoughs - it's called 'The Wife'.

          You must be new to this marriage thing.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Um... my dishwasher doesn't gather dishes from the dinner table (i.e. floor by the couch), or even the sink, and it doesn't stack them in a cupboard as they're done. Sure, the washing proper is better left to the dedicated machine, but once you've got a bot that can manage the logistics, washing them itself is trivial and hella cool (to watch, the first few times), so that's what'll sell now. In 10 years, they'll be degimmicked to actually make sense.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        A better way might be to replace the dishes, cups, etc with little robots. Or possibly build RFID tags into them so that the household robot knows what to pick up, and what to leave alone.

        • A couple of Disney movies come to mind :) Robotic dishes combined with wireless power would be pretty cool.

          I only tend to use one plate, knife and fork each day anyway though so I don't mind doing my own dishes. I don't get people that let everything stack up rather than just washing stuff as soon as they're done with it - it just creates so much hassle later. Now, clothes on the other hand.. bring on the robotic maids.

          • I don't get people that let everything stack up rather than just washing stuff as soon as they're done with it - it just creates so much hassle later.

            I use a queue-based system for dish management and the primary draw is efficient use of resources and time. Once a sink stacks up then you run through it and put the results in the dishwasher, which then sanitizes them. I end up running the dishwasher every few days once it has been stuffed full. I use less water overall than what I achieve washing them by hand, and it also takes me less time.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by somersault ( 912633 )

              I save a lot of time because I never need to take or remove anything from cupboards or drawers, or load/unload a dishwasher. By the time I come back to the kitchen to eat my next meal my dishes have dried from their previous washing.

              I really doubt I'd be saving any water by using a dishwasher (it only takes 10 or so seconds to rinse dishes, 20 if I've been cooking - so much easier to clean pots and pans while they're still warm), plus I'd be spending more on soap and electricity. IMO washing-up liquid isn't

          • Now, sex on the other hand.. bring on the robotic maids.

            There FTFY

    • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Monday September 06, 2010 @06:10AM (#33487272) Journal

      Special-purpose machines are always better. The problem is that you need a lot of them. That's why you're posting on Slashdot using a general-purpose computing machine, rather than a dedicated slashdot-posting machine. This history of technology progresses in cycles, where you begin with specialised machines, then you develop general-purpose ones that aren't as good. Eventually the general-purpose machines become good enough and the specialised ones are relegated to smaller and smaller niches until they disappear completely.

      Humanoid is a pretty poor shape for a robot, but it does have one advantage - it can use the same tools that we use. Your house is (almost certainly, given that this is Slashdot) designed for humanoids and contains a lot of specialised machines that are designed to be used by humanoids. A humanoid robot can use all of these without requiring specialised robot-usable versions.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by RMH101 ( 636144 )
        "That's why you're posting on Slashdot using a general-purpose computing machine, rather than a dedicated slashdot-posting machine."
        Um, I'm at work. This is a /. posting machine, that occasionally gets used for other things
      • I think we will have robotic houses before we have household robots.

        • by urusan ( 1755332 )

          The problem is that you have to build all those fancy robotic houses. Most people will probably be okay with loading their own dishes and cleaning their own surfaces if it saves them tens of thousands of dollars on their house.

          A household robot would be much smaller and cheaper than a whole new house, and could take advantage of economies of scale more easily.

          So, although robotic houses might appear first they will be the playthings of the wealthy. Household robots will almost certainly be what brings home

    • There is no room for a dishwasher in my kitchen, so a robot butler that could clean dishes and do other useful things would be an interesting deal in term of usefullness / space taken.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by delinear ( 991444 )
      I guess somewhere like Japan where space is limited and you pay a premium for it, the more devices you can combine into one unit the better.
    • by RicktheBrick ( 588466 ) on Monday September 06, 2010 @09:14AM (#33487956)
      I want better AI software. I want a speaker, microphone, and a camera in every room of my house. I want a natural language interface with the computer. I want to be able to tell the computer when I am leaving the house and when to expect me back. I want the computer to know when any of my appliances are working and what noise to expect from them. I want the computer to know when an unexpected noise occurs and to figure out what it is and take action if it can or to call for help if it can not correct the problem. In the kitchen I want to be able to tell the computer I am using the last of any food I am using for my meal and have the computer generate a shopping list for me. I want to tell the computer when I put something on the stove or oven and have it remind me when I should look at it again. I want it to tell me when the washing machine, dryer, and dishwasher have finished their work so I can unload them. When I leave the house I want the computer to be able to save me energy by communicating with all my now unneeded devices. For instance all my clocks would be shut off and would be restarted with the correct time only when I am in the room they are in. I want the computer to communicate with every device that runs with electricity, water, or gas. There are still a lot of labor saving actions(by saving me money) that the computer can accomplish just be being able to communicate with those devices and by determining when they are needed.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by plastbox ( 1577037 )
        All that stuff seems perfectly buildable for an enthusiastic DIY'er. Chances are you are just like me though, knowing full-well that it could be created but leaving the actual work and invention/innovation to someone with more skills. =P
      • by cynyr ( 703126 )

        I don't want to tell the computer that i'm out of a food, simply by watching it get used it should know how much is left. hooking it into one of those grocery delivery places would be nice, all the food i need just before i need it at my door when i get home from work. As for the dishwasher/washer/dryer/stove reminder that would be amazing. Something along the lines while cooking "set timer for 12 minutes, stirring occasionally" and i would get reminded say every 3 minutes to stir(only in the room i'm in, n

    • Dude, how about one that does! Like Galaxina or Cherry 2000!!

  • Off switch? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by captainpanic ( 1173915 ) on Monday September 06, 2010 @05:35AM (#33487130)

    I shall write the paranoid post.
    Since the robots are not going to take over the world anyway, I assume that they come with an off switch (one of those old-fashioned ones that really mean "off", and not "stand-by")?

    I am not sure I would like a machine in my house that can take (semi-)independent decisions without the option to switch it off completely.

    • sorry, Dave (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The off switch actually triggers a response "I'm afraid I can't let you do that, Dave!"
      And right afterwards the robots starts pleasing you sexually, assumin you are into Bondage and SM.

    • by somersault ( 912633 ) on Monday September 06, 2010 @06:12AM (#33487294) Homepage Journal

      I am not sure I would like a machine in my house that can take (semi-)independent decisions without the option to switch it off completely.

      Something tells me you're not a big cat person.

      • Hehe...
        I actually thought of pets when I wrote that post.

        It's just that pets pose much less of a risk than a rampant robot. Also, a pet will (in an ideal scenario) listen to voice commands, usually only of the owner - most pets don't even listen to those - while theoretically a robot can be influenced and commanded from many kilometers away. What I nean, in short, is that a pet cannot be hacked.

        I was thinking of computer programs and/or operating systems that run updates independently, and that do quite a f

        • Oh, pets can be hacked - see Pavlov. I once trained a dog that it would get a treat every time I said the word "Radio". Then, with it sitting in its owners lap on a long drive, I managed to make it drool all over him. Most dogs are very easy to hack - you'll find that holding a treat is the equivalent of sudo.

          Hacking a cat, on the other hand...

    • yes, but it's one of those new digital buttons that don't work when you get the equivalent of a blue screen. and they have an atomic power source, so you can't unplug them. if you were a general, I could tell you more.

      • Also, Strategic Artificially Intelligent Nuclear Transport unit 5 seems to have developed a personality and believes it is "alive".
  • by B1ackbeard ( 1417319 ) on Monday September 06, 2010 @05:50AM (#33487184)
    For those into Japanese animation, check out this short series set in the near future Japan where household androids are commonplace starting to become self aware. []
  • by M8e ( 1008767 ) on Monday September 06, 2010 @06:10AM (#33487274)

    So the (household) robots already got their own state? I don't like the look of this...

  • I, for one (Score:5, Funny)

    by JustOK ( 667959 ) on Monday September 06, 2010 @06:25AM (#33487344) Journal

    I, for one, welcome our new robotic underlords.

  • by sosume ( 680416 ) on Monday September 06, 2010 @06:39AM (#33487392) Journal

    Still waiting for a robot that can iron and fold my clothes, or even a complete workflow: collect clothes, wash, dry, fold and put it back in the drawer. That would be awesome.

  • President Marjorie Bota: Andrew Martin
    Andrew Martin: I've always tried to make sense of things. There must be some reason I am as I am. As you can see, Madame Chairman, I am no longer immortal.
    President Marjorie Bota: You have arranged to die?
    Andrew Martin: In a sense I have. I am growing old, my body is deteriorating, and like all of you, will eventually cease to function. As a robot, I could have lived forever. But I tell you all today, I would rather die a man, than live for all eternity a machine.
  • "One is glad to be of service."
  • Do you mean "When do we move to Japan?" or "When shall we need to lift a finger again?"

    For the former, well, I don't speak or read Japanese, so I don't think it would work out very well for me unless the English translations of the user manuals are really good. I don't think I want a robot that I don't know how to turn off (or, in some cases, how to turn on []).

    As for the latter, well, I still enjoy doing things myself, and plan to get off the couch some time in the next hour or so.

  • "The dream of owning a household robot" might have quite a different meaning in a different context, eh?

    I wonder when the first physical theft will be executed totally by remote via controlling a super-sophisticated household robot ("Take jewelery. Put in box. Send box to Astoria.")?

  • by Baron_Yam ( 643147 ) on Monday September 06, 2010 @10:03AM (#33488246)

    I'm pretty sure an android is the best possible all-purpose automation tool, because it can use everything that's already designed for humans.

    However, I'm also pretty sure that an android would be the worst possible all-purpose automation tool, since the near-human level AI required would also make it a perfect social replacement for everyone on the planet. Why would I want to deal with everyone else when I can have someone who is the perfect slave?

  • by halber_mensch ( 851834 ) on Monday September 06, 2010 @10:03AM (#33488250)
    I had a roomba, and I was on top of the world. I had a robotic servant dutifully cleaning my floors so I didn't have to. Then my dog shit on the floor, and the roomba dutifully 'cleaned' the floor, smearing the shit all over the house and crudding up its brushes, gears, and wheels. I don't have a roomba anymore.
  • Did I just see a robot chair designed to move you from A to B inside your own friggin house?

    That's just too much for me.
    I can't even begin to comprehend why I, or anyone else for that matter, would want something like that.

    If walking from your bedroom to your living room is a to difficult, to exhausting and daunting task you don't need a robot. You need some goddamn exercise.

    Of course this doesn't apply for the elderly or disabled but there are already plentiful solutions for that. This was ju

  • it smart to buy machines instead of hiring a maid?

  • and even robotic wheelchairs to help you get around.

    Am I the only person who thought of Roujin Z [] upon reading that?

  • Until the libs decide they are tired of exploiting our south of the border neighbors, robots will never catch on in the USA. Grateful Illegals are much cheaper and easier to main tain (with free GOV healthcare) than repairing a complex automaton. Not a new concept, ancient Greece would have had cars (literally) and many other modern conveniences if not for that handy slave labor. Why buld a car, when you can have a rickshas (which were invented in Boston, though americans were unwilling to "power them",
  • I bult a "show bot" for a was for public events, and relations, etc. for a not for profit. The guy was in his 70's and was somewhat of a luddite, and a swindler. Anyway, some words of advice, don't design YOUR friendly PR robot while watching "robot wars". The thing could literally drag a person trying to stop it across gravel, My bad. I was reminded of the "Liberty Mutual Robot Insurance" fake commercial on SNL with Sam Watterston.

"I will make no bargains with terrorist hardware." -- Peter da Silva