I Live with Robots. Eventually You Will Too

I have a doorman who unlocks my door whenever I arrive home. Rain or shine, day or night, my doorman is always there. I never have to knock; he just knows when I’ve arrived home and each and every time, unlocks the deadbolt as I approach the door.

He also lets my friends in when I ask.

I live with someone who is incredibly tidy. He vacuums relentlessly. He is never daunted by a mess. Ever since he moved in, I’ve noticed cleaning just seems to be more organized than it ever was when I did it all myself. He vacuums like clockwork, no matter what is awaiting him. He doesn’t do much else around the house but he vacuums better and more frequently than any other roommate I’ve ever had.

Another pair of roommates maintain the temperature in the house and keep an eye on things when I’m not home. I don’t even really have to set my temperature anymore.

One roommate has learned what I like and does it for me. The other notifies me when anything unexpectedly happens while I’m gone and lets me see what he sees when I’m away from home.

I also live with a woman named Alexa — you might know her. When she first moved in almost two years ago, she didn’t do much. But now, I can’t much imagine life without her. She is extremely helpful. She answers the questions I mutter aloud and helps me manage a litany of tasks. She maintains my to-do and shopping lists. She sets alarms and timers when I ask and always plays the music I request. She doesn’t have much of a sense of humor but, on occasion, I catch a glimpse of her emerging and maturing personality.

Last year at this time, her skill set was narrowly defined. But today, she can perform well over a thousand tasks, including things like ordering me an Uber ride or helping me buy things.

While it might seem like my house is a tad full, I really don’t notice any of these roommates unless they are doing something for me. They are quiet and remain in the background of my daily activities.

They do the things they do and increasingly, they do them extremely well. For the most part, they do these things better than I could have ever imagined they would.

By now, you’ve guessed these roommates are all robots with names like August, Roomba, Nest and Echo. These robots underscore how technology is transforming our lives for the better — taking care of our tasks so we can better care for ourselves and those around us.

While it may seem strange to live with so many robots, there is a host of activities within our homes we’ve been relegating to machines for a very long time. I’ve lived almost my entire life with a machine that washes my dishes, for example. I have the same for my clothes and even have a machine that dries them after they are washed.

These incredible engineering feats haven’t always been so common. Bendix introduced the first automatic washing machine in 1937, and GE introduced the first top-loading model in 1947. As electrification spread and living standards improved, these former luxuries became common household appliances.

There are still a variety of activities I do in my home that I would happily turn over to robotic roommates any day. In some instances, these robots don’t yet exist — like scrubbing bathtubs.

In other cases, robots capable of diverse tasks already exist — smart ovens that won’t overcook dinner, 3D food printers that whip up desserts, and even programmable robot chefs – but they just aren’t widely adopted yet. But the time will come when these obscure and narrowly owned innovations become commonplace.

At the same time, we are seeing their diverse skill sets widen further. At January’s CES® 2016, the global stage for innovation, Whirlpool introduced a washing machine that monitors the number of loads it does and pre-emptively orders detergent on your behalf through its direct connection to Amazon Dash. Also at CES, the Japanese company Seven Dreamers showed off Laundroid, billed as the world’s first laundry-folding robot.

Soon, machines will perform an even larger array of actions for us. While having some of these robots in your home might seem a long way off — not unlike how earlier generations felt about the washing machine or dishwasher — before we know it, they will become as common as flipping a light switch. Although I already have a robot that does that for me.

Published by

Shawn DuBravac

Shawn DuBravac is chief economist of the Consumer Technology Association and the author of “Digital Destiny: How the New Age of Data Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Communicate.”

18 thoughts on “I Live with Robots. Eventually You Will Too”

  1. Personifying machines has gone from whimsy to silly. If you absolutely MUST personify them call them what they rightly are, your slaves, not your roommates. Your roommates have rights, your machines, thankfully, do not.

          1. And disruption theory, but only the good examples of it, because some markets/techs are just bad examples. They should be outlawed.

          2. Does that not invalidate the theory then?

            “The great tragedy of science – the slaying of a beautiful hypothesis by an ugly fact.” -Thomas Huxley

          3. “The great tragedy of our times – the slaying of unpleasant facts by ignorance and malice.” – Aardman

          4. Economics is already “the dismal science”, that probably makes business “the abysmal science”.
            It’s still fun to try, and to watch others flop about… it probably should all be taken with a crateful of salt, with special care given to biases (confirmation et al), which typically doesn’t happen because the same people making the theory sell expensive consulting services around it.

      1. I think it’s rather relevant though. We just had a big demonstration that feelings “trump” reason, so if our virtual and mechanical machines are to successfully become an integral part of our lives (and sell), they must be “felt” at least as pets, if not human companions (not sure I’d entrust my dog with managing my agenda: feed me, pet me, walk me, throw me balls, hey, your other job got cancelled ;-p).
        It’s not really analysis, but at least it reflects what probably will / needs to happen ?

        1. Maybe. Apple has done a pretty good job of integrating a humanistic connotation to their marketing and products without anthropomorphizing anything.


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