Here we are, now solidly into the 21st century, and yet, we still do not have autonomous, friendly robot housekeepers to do all our bidding in the style of Rosie from The Jetsons. In an essay, Time magazine's Keith Wagstaff muses on just what it is that's holding us back. Some of the reasons put forward seem pretty obvious: our technology isn't that good, and a giant metallic humanoid housekeeper would actually be kind of intrusive and creepy. But we were interested to hear Wagstaff's most persuasive reason:
[Q]uite frankly, we might have no need for it.
“The idea that a humanoid robot with arms would push a vacuum cleaner is an image that has set many expectations and, in some ways, has set back the industry,” says Colin Angle, CEO of iRobot. The man knows a thing or two about robots, considering the Roomba has sold more than 6 million units worldwide, making it by far the most widely adopted domestic robot ever invented ... A $300 disc that can vacuum your floor by itself is pretty amazing when you stop and think about it.
Basically, Rosie hasn't been setting the bar too high, she's just been giving us the wrong idea all along, and we're actually moving toward a household run by more attainable niche robots. (Coincidentally, even as this post is written, a commercial is playing in the background for some sort of automated whisk device called RoboStir. Talk about niche ...) Still, if you yearn for a friendly robot maid in your life, check out the rest of Wagstaff's thoughts here.