Thursday, 19 April 2018
News Tech

The robots of CES are a joke


Solving all kinds of nonexistent problems, poorly.
Solving all kinds of nonexistent problems, poorly.

Image: BRIDGET BENNETT/MASHABLE

The robots of the future are, well, still figuring things out.

That was the overwhelming takeaway from CES, the world’s largest tech convention, held this past week in Las Vegas. From a laundry-folding bot that couldn’t fold laundry, to an AI-powered helper that refused to help, to an in-home mechanical maid that kept dropping stuff, the dream of robotic friends making our lives easier is clearly a long way off. 

But apparently no one bothered to communicate that fact to the exhibitors and companies showcasing their latest contributions to the technology-fueled utopian delusion that is CES. Both corporate behemoth and niche manufacturer alike demoed a series of robots that, while (for the most part) slickly packaged, failed to deliver on their core promise — whatever it happened to be. 

The silent treatment.

The silent treatment.

Image: BRIDGET BENNETT/MASHABLE

Take LG’s CLOi. An integral part of the company’s smart home line of products, the pint-sized friend is designed to be a voice-activated assistant that can do everything from give you recipes to report on the status of your laundry. 

Of course CLOi didn’t work. At the LG press event, Vice President of U.S. Marketing David VanderWaal was repeatedly met with silence when he asked the bot simple questions like what was for dinner that night. 

Making the world a better place, one fold at a time.

Making the world a better place, one fold at a time.

Image: BRIDGET BENNETT/MASHABLE

Or how about the aforementioned laundry bot. FoldiMate is set to ship to customers sometime in 2019 for the eye-popping price of $980, but, as Mashable’s own Michael Nuñez discovered, it still has a long way to go. Just how far? A long-sleeve shirt he fed the machine jammed it. 

And then there was Buddy. Debuted back in 2015, the rolling smart bot is “meant to do everything your Amazon Echo device would do,” explained a product rep. And while Buddy may in fact tell you the weather like the Echo, we don’t think an Echo would try to run away from you — something that Buddy very much tried to do to that very same rep at CES Unveiled. 

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Not a good look.

The Sony Aibo wasn’t much better. The $2,000 internet-connected robotic dog is undeniably cute (if you’re into that kind of thing), but even with all the tech that its hefty price tag implies, it straight up ignored Sony CEO Kaz Hirai during a press event. It later struggled to play fetch. One thing it can do reliably? Cost you a $25-per-month fee required for it to work. 

And let’s not even touch the busted-ass looking Aeolus. 

Essentially, despite all the promises of AI-fueled conversation, connectivity, and making your daily routine easier and more convenient, the robots of CES repeatedly failed to deliver. On the whole, they offered half solutions for non-existent problems. And they did it poorly. 

CES is supposed to be the showcase for the cutting-edge tech poised to change our lives. And, in some cases, it delivered on that promise. But when it came to the myriad robotic helpers on display, it left us wondering just who, exactly, this extremely expensive borderline junk is for. 

Unfortunately for everyone who attended the convention, that question remains very much unanswered. 

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