New robots steal show at 2017 CES

Coolest thing at CES 2017? Robots steal show

LAS VEGAS —The one, coolest thing from this year's 2017 CES is an easy pick — those amazing robots.

We saw robots to make your morning coffee, pour candy, fold your clothes, turn on and off your lights, project a movie on the wall, handle your daily chores and most impressively, look just like a human, or in this case, legendary scientist Albert Einstein, with facial expressions and movement.

Why did robots dominate CES? You can thank the popularity of Amazon’s Echo device for showcasing the technology of a voice-activated personal assistant. That's exactly what many of these robots are as well.

“Personal assistants can finally understand you," says David Hanson, the founder of Hanson Robotics, which will begin marketing its $299 Einstein robot in the spring. "That's a watershed moment."

One company even introduced a robot with Alexa voice commands. UBTECH Robotics debuted Lynx, which it calls a "humanoid" robot. The unit is expected to hit stores by mid-year.

CES has in recent years been dominated by huge TVs, mobile technology and connected cars. Robots are a new category, and there were many of them here, mostly from Asia.

Hanson is based in Hong Kong. USA TODAY spoke to many creators in mainland China and Japan as well, as well as Mayfield Robotics, which is based in Silicon Valley.

Bubblelab, based in China, brought its proof of concept Robotic Barista here just to show what was possible.

“The barista doesn’t have time to communicate with the customers,” said Bubblelab’s Jacky Shai. “That’s the purpose of our robot. The barista can now come out and talk to the customers about what they feel.”

Waybot showed a big industrial-looking robot pouring candy for its master.

“We hope in the future you can sit and relax and have him do everything for you, get you a beer, clean the floor or do some grocery shopping,” says Waybot’s Weijian Shang.

Hanson sees robots over the next few years to help learn science, with scheduling and medicine and in the classroom.

Kuri, a new personal robot from Mayfield, promises to do ordinary tasks, from helping with information to taking photos of the cat when you're away and beaming them off to you.

But will robots go on the attack, like they have in so many movies and TV series?

“We’re doing our best to make sure the robots care,” Hanson says. “I want robots to form a positive relationship with people, to be an interface for deep learning and artificial intelligence, so the AI can come to care about us. This will change the world.”

Hanson plans to sell a mini version of his Einstein prototype later this year for $299.

Steve Crowe, the managing editor for Robotics Trends, thinks Hanson has the best shot at bringing consumer robots mainstream. “They have the character down, and their’s are the most realistic,” he says. “That really resonates with consumers.”

© Robert Hanashiro, USA TODAY Professor Einstein, an educational wi-fi connected robot is on display at the Hanson Robot display during the opening day of CES.

Coolest thing at CES 2017? Robots steal show

We saw robots to make your morning coffee, pour candy, fold your clothes, turn on and off your lights, project a movie on the wall, handle your daily chores and most impressively, look just like a human, or in this case, legendary scientist Albert Einstein, with facial expressions and movement.

Why did robots dominate CES? You can thank the popularity of Amazon’s Alexa for showcasing the technology of a voice-activated personal assistant. That's exactly what many of these robots are as well.

“Personal assistants can finally understand you," says David Hanson, the founder of Hanson Robotics, which will begin marketing its $299 Einstein robot in the spring. "That's a watershed moment."

One company even introduced a robot with Alexa voice commands. UBTECH Robotics debuted Lynx, which it calls a "humanoid" robot. The unit is expected to hit stores by mid-year.

CES has in recent years been dominated by huge TVs, mobile technology and connected cars. Robots are a new category, and there were many of them here, mostly from Asia.

Hanson is based in Hong Kong. USA TODAY spoke to many creators in mainland China and Japan as well, as well as Mayfield Robotics, which is based in Silicon Valley.

Bubblelab, based in China, brought its proof of concept Robotic Barista here just to show what was possible.

“The barista doesn’t have time to communicate with the customers,” said Bubblelab’s Jacky Shai. “That’s the purpose of our robot. The barista can now come out and talk to the customers about what they feel.”

Waybot showed a big industrial-looking robot pouring candy for its master.

“We hope in the future you can sit and relax and have him do everything for you, get you a beer, clean the floor or do some grocery shopping,” says Waybot’s Weijian Shang.

Hanson sees robots over the next few years to help learn science, with scheduling and medicine and in the classroom.

Kuri, a new personal robot from Mayfield, promises to do ordinary tasks, from helping with information to taking photos of the cat when you're away and beaming them off to you.

But will robots go on the attack, like they have in so many movies and TV series?

“We’re doing our best to make sure the robots care,” Hanson says. “I want robots to form a positive relationship with people, to be an interface for deep learning and artificial intelligence, so the AI can come to care about us. This will change the world.”

Steve Crowe, the managing editor for Robotics Trends, thinks Hanson has the best shot at bringing consumer robots mainstream. “They have the character down, and their’s are the most realistic,” he says. “That really resonates with consumers.”


All the robots of CES 2017

CES 2017 will always be remembered as the show where we met our future robot overlords -- and were foolishly disarmed by how darn cute they were.

Even when, back in December, we predicted the robots were coming, we didn't realize quite how many bots we would encounter. The droids are truly out in force and injected a real sense of fun and excitement into this year's show.

It all started with LG, which kicked off its press conference early in the week by unveiling three robots: one to run your home, one to cut your lawn and one to greet you at the airport.

If robots have been a big trend of the show, the prevalence of Amazon's Alexa voice assistant has been even bigger. There was definite overlap between the two, with several robots packing the power of Alexa, including Mykie the kitchen assistant from Bosch, LG's Hub Robot and Lynx from UBTech.

A handful of robotics companies in attendance were there not to unveil new products, but to showcase new skills and capabilities their robots have recently gained. Softbank's Pepper robot played a game of Cards Against Humanity with us, for example. And a robot barista poured a perfect cup of joe, showing how humans who make coffee for a living could eventually be out of a job.

Along with the many robots designed to play a key role in smart homes, there were also several educational robots at the show. These included Leka, built for children with special needs, and Lego's new robotics kits that will allow kids (and big kids alike) to bring their Lego creations to life.

During CNET's robotics panel we heard four major players from the industry outline the role that robots will soon start to play in our lives.

"One of my predictions for 2017 is that twice as many people are going to interact with robots as they did in 2016," said Steve Cousins, CEO of Savioke, a company which makes delivery robots for hotels. Exciting if you've never encountered a robot before; still exciting even if you have.

Here are some of the robots you might be lucky enough to meet this year that CNET saw at the show:
  • Kuri by Mayfield Robotics is a robot nanny that charms the kids and watches your place.
  • UBTech's Lynx Robot gives Amazon's assistant a face, a body, arms and legs.
  • Bosch's Mikie, the countertop robot who wants to be your sous chef.
  • Hub Robot: LG essentially took a smart speaker and jammed it into a cute, mobile robot.
  • Robo Mower: Feeling lazy about mowing the lawn? LG has a robot that will do it for you.
  • Airbot: Taking the robot concept further, LG also unveiled an airport guide robot, which will appear at Incheon airport in South Korea later this year.
  • Lego Boost, coming later this year, turns all your Lego constructions into robots.
  • Leka is designed to help special-needs children better understand social and visual cues.
  • Ziro is a kit that lets you build robots and control them with just your hand.
  • Neato's robot vac will now respond to cues via Facebook Messenger.
  • Ewaybot MoRo is a robotic assistant designed to simplify your life... for $30,000.
  • Emotech's Olly bridges the divide between smart home hubs and smart home robots.
  • Aristotle by Nabi is part robot, part baby monitor.
  • Laundroid will sort and fold your clothes. One less chore for you.


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