2016's most riveting robots

IDG News Service | Dec 12, 2016

We take a look back at the year's most interesting robots, from a robot that will fold your clothing to one that will prick your finger to make a point.

Track 1: 20-16 is almost over and boy was it a big year for robots. Here’s our pick of the coolest bots of 2016.

Track 2: First up, the Zenbo personal assistant robot by Asus. At around 2 feet tall, Zenbo rolls around on two wheels and responds to voice commands. The cute bot is meant to be a caretaker for the elderly and can entertain children with songs and games. It can also be used to make video calls and stream movies.

Track 3: If you’re not allowed to have pets in your house, Boston Dynamic has got you covered. The SpotMini is an all-electric, bionic dog slash giraffe robot that can help out with chores like doing the dishes, recycling, and bringing you a coke. Just don’t leave any banana peels lying around.

Track 4: Another robot to help lighten your chores load is the Laundroid. The refrigerator sized robot is able to fold garments using image analysis and artificial intelligence, though if you want your laundry folded quick, you’re out of luck. One average, the machine takes about 10 minutes to fold one piece of clothing.

Track 5: Toyota’s Kirobo Mini is a bot you can take everywhere. It’s only 10 centimeters tall and can can be carried in your car or purse. While the bot can do little more than turn its head and move its arms, it can listen to and respond to simple questions, learn about its owner and even comment on their driving performance. The bot works with a companion smartphone app and has a limited chat time: 2 and a half hours to be exact.

Track 6: And for those who prefer flying to driving, watch out for bots at the airport. Amelia is stationed at San Jose International Airport and can show travelers interactive maps, take selfies, and even perform a small dance. In the future, developers hope to integrate a boarding pass scanner to direct passengers to their gates and suggest stores and concessions along the way. Airports in Japan, Canada, and the Netherlands have opted for similar robots.

Track 7: Our next robot was an instant sensation at this year’s South by Southwest festival. Sophia is a female humanoid robot that can exhibit more than 60 facial expressions. Her computer brain is seen through a clear dome and hooked up to WIFI. Sophia’s comprehension skills are still pretty elementary, but she’s definitely the face of robotic evolution.

Track 8: With robots getting smarter and smarter, what will the relationship between humans and machines look like? That’s the question explored by the last robot on our list. Created by roboticist Alexander Reben, it uses sensors, a metal arm, and needle to randomly deliver a sharp prick to users’ fingers. Its sole purpose is to spark conversation about whether there should be limits on artificial intelligence and the ability of robots to hurt humans.

Track 9: That wraps up our countdown of the coolest robots of 20-16. I’ll see you next year, assuming my robot masters allow it.