The 21st century may not involve flying cars just yet, but there are still plenty of technological advances in the machine world that can make your life easier right now. Here are 10 tasks that robots can take over from you:
1. PLAYING WITH YOUR KIDS
You probably shouldn’t leave your children with a robot babysitter and jet off to the movies, but today’s robots can still benefit your little ones. Therapy robots are already used in classrooms to help kids with autism learn social skills, but they’re also used to help kids who aren’t on the spectrum learn art and other subjects. Other personal assistant robots currently in use in China can help your toddlers re-read their favorite book for the 100th time. Through a tablet, you can check in on your 3- to 8-year-old kids with a baby-cam feature, or let the robot answer yet another “why?” question. In Japan, robots will help address the country’s childcare shortage, assisting human daycare providers in monitoring and entertaining young charges by 2018.
2. GOING TO THAT ALL-STAFF MEETING
Working remotely doesn’t need to mean being totally absent from the office anymore. Telepresence robots can let you wander the corporate halls as if you were really there, not sitting at home hundreds or thousands of miles away. Essentially tablets on wheels, these robots take video conferencing mobile, allowing you to drop by a colleague’s office or hang around the water cooler if you really want to.
3. TENDING YOUR GARDEN
If you don’t have a naturally green thumb, robots can help. One open-source farming robot due out in February 2017 can do everything but harvest your vegetables: it plants seeds, waters them on a schedule, monitors their growth, and destroys weeds. You just log into the video game-like app and arrange your plants in the desired configuration, and the robot does the rest. On a smaller scale, smart sprinkler systems can monitor weather and soil conditions to figure out just how much water each of the plants in your yard need at any given time, and distribute it accordingly. One cloud-connected sprinkler system claims to lower garden water consumption by up to 90 percent.
4. TURNING ON THE LIGHTS
Domestic robots are more useful than ever before thanks to smart home technology. Smart home hubs allow you to set specific schedules for when your lights turn on and off, so you don’t have to worry about coming home to a dark house or accidentally leaving the kitchen light on after you go to bed. These hubs can connect to the various different smart home products you use, like thermostats, smoke alarms, or sound systems, so you can use just one app to schedule your thermostat to turn down the temperature and your security system to activate automatically around the time you leave for work. A few of the newer hubs are voice activated, so you can just ask your home robot to turn the lights on or lock the door.
5. ORDERING PIZZA—AND MORE
The pizza industry may be the first to succumb to our robot overlords. In Singapore, one major credit card company has plans to install a robot in a pizza chain to help customers order their meal, due out by the end of this year. A Silicon Valley pizza startup is taking it even further, using robots to make its pies. Since April, the pizza ‘bots have been doing everything from spreading sauce to popping pizzas in the oven. And of course, you can ask your voice-operated smart home hub to order you your favorite pizza.
6. CARRYING YOUR GROCERIES
In 2017, a popular (among mall cops, at least) personal vehicle manufacturer will come out with a robot butler that’s part hoverboard, part assistant. It’s got facial recognition, speech recognition, autonomous navigation, and more. It can follow you around the house, or you can ride it around the yard. And unlike smaller personal robots, it can carry things for you, ferrying your grocery bag to the kitchen. The developer version of the ‘bot came out this year, so there will likely be a whole set of apps ready by the time the consumer version launches.
7. KEEPING YOU COMPANY
Loneliness isn’t just a social problem; it’s a public health issue. Social isolation has been found to be just as risky as smoking or obesity when it comes to your health. However, building a community isn’t easy. For people who can’t get out of the house easily, there are robots, like interactive dogs, cats, and seals that make noise and respond to touch much like real animals would. Other robots specifically designed for older adults who live alone can detect falls, remind users of appointments, and connect to video-chat programs and social media.
8. COOKING DINNER
One robotics company is the in the midst of developing a robotic cook that can cook with the flair of a celebrity chef, reproducing the dexterity and skill of human cooks. A consumer version is due out in 2017, and will come with touchscreen controls and a glass enclosure that will protect your kitchen from any stray splashes from the cooking process.
9. KEEPING YOU COOL
Offices are notoriously hard to keep at a comfortable temperature, but soon, a little robot might act as your personal climate control. Several university research teams are competing to develop a personal air conditioner that can follow a person around and connect to a wearable devices that tells the ‘bot if they are uncomfortably warm or cold. The robot will then adjust its heating or cooling mechanisms accordingly, preventing users from needing to turn up the heat or AC building-wide.
10. KEEPING TRACK OF YOUR HEALTH
Health robots can keep you feeling your best, even if you’re not great at remembering your medications. One pill-dispensing robot scheduled to debut in summer 2017 can hook up to your activity trackers and even re-order your vitamins and medications when you’re about to run out. You can ask the cute pill-bot health questions and set it up to recognize the faces of you and the other members of your family.