While science-fiction continues to give robots a bad rap by portraying them as power-hungry overlords-in-waiting, tech companies continue to engineer humanoids that have a more altruistic goal: making our lives a little easier. Check out nine helpful robots that are either available now or coming soon.
1. ROBOTS THAT HELP YOU NAVIGATE AIRPORTS
In Japan, robots have been designed to help passengers navigate busy international airports by answering travel questions and even guiding visitors to gate entrances for flights. The robots are multilingual and can roll along on wheels at roughly the same pace as a human gait, guaranteeing travelers won’t have to sacrifice speed for information.
2. SHOPPING AID BOTS
Ever find yourself lost in a vast warehouse store with no employee in sight? Some retailers are implementing locomoting robots that can lead customers to desired products or scan items for pricing information. The hope is that these tasks will give the human employees more time to answer specific questions.
3. WINDOW CLEANING ROBOTS
It’s no big deal to take a surface cleaner to a first-floor window, but trying to clean the outside of a second-floor pane or above is usually an exercise in caution and frayed nerves. Several companies are now offering robots that suction to glass and move vertically, cleaning glass panes without homeowners being forced to risk their literal neck for a smudge-free view. Some devices even clean aquarium glass without requiring owners to drain the tank.
4. ROBOT VACUUMS
Pushing a heavy, noisy vacuum back and forth across your floor is a necessary evil to avoid living in filth. Thankfully, it’s become both affordable and practical to invite a robotic clean-up crew into your home. By some estimates, over 20 percent of the entire vacuum market is made up of self-propelled, automated machines that can clean floors and navigate obstacles by themselves.
5. MASSAGE ROBOTS
The muscle knots of a stressful day can be smoothed out with a good massage, providing you have a talented pair of hands at your disposal. If not, robots designed to knead soft tissue can drive over your back, using dented wheels to maneuver around. A software program alerts the machines when they’ve hit a sharp curve, forcing them to lean the other way to avoid falling over.
6. SNOWPLOW ROBOTS
While they’re still some time away from retail, autonomous snowplows have already undergone rigorous testing. The small-profile plows work on the same principles as robotic vacuums, using software to recognize patterns and shovel snow out of your driveway while you avoid the toil and cold.
7. A ROBOT THAT FOLDS LAUNDRY
Piles of laundry can never be ignored for long: The risk for wrinkling is high. One company has resolved to fix this issue, designing a robot that automatically folds clothes (at twice the speed of a human), dispenses steam to address remaining wrinkles, and can even add scents or sanitized capsules to loads.
8. LAWN CARE ROBOTS
Gardening can be a relaxing way to spend a weekend; raking leaves and trimming grass usually are not. At least one robot headed for the consumer market promises to eliminate those chores from your weekend schedule, mulching both grass and leaves automatically and rendering itself inoperable in the event it’s stolen.
9. ROBOTS THAT HELP CARE FOR THE ELDERLY
It’s inaccurate to stereotype robots and other advanced technology as being the domain of the young and tech-savvy. Overseas, trials are underway that are examining how assistance robots can help seniors maintain their independence by doing their shopping, detecting gas leaks, and fetching medication. Some will even be able to assist the elderly with walking, thereby helping to prevent falls.