Robots in the home

Going back just a few years, I had a hi-fi stack system in my home, rather like the one illustrated here, with different units for amplification, levels, playing records, playing cassette tapes, and listening to the radio. I also had a reel-to-reel deck on which I could play my own recordings as well as those of my grandfather who had one of the earliest Grundig tape recorders. So many pieces of equipment just to achieve one goal, that of listening to music or recorded sound.

Then of course there’s the television, the video recorder, the video camera, the DVD player, the games console … the list goes on as the wires and cables turn into a mess of spaghetti.

Today, all of the above can be achieved by one box in the form of a modern computer (I am in the process of copying all my old cassette tapes, reel-to-reel tapes and movies onto my computer).

My grandfather was fascinated by technology back in the 1950s – he even had his own home record cutting machine on which he recorded my family having fun with their own amateur dramatics such as a production of “Lost in Arundel Castle”. He would be astounded if he could handle an iPad today.

But what has all this to do with robotics? Well it seems to me that history is repeating itself. Today it is possible to buy a robotic vacuum cleaner, a robotic floor mop, a robotic lawn mower, robotic security lights, robotic pool cleaner, robotic window cleaner, and no doubt there will be more of these little robots buzzing around people’s houses in years to come. One of the robotic lawn mowers, available in the UK at about £1,000, is so unintelligent that I am amazed people buy it. However when I looked at the supplier’s website today I read that they have low stock. There is a video of the set up on YouTube so you can see what I mean (below). I have an old fashioned push mower – still available on Amazon at about £35 – for my small lawn. There are no electric cables to get in the way, and it guarantees me some simple exercise!

Hopefully it won’t be many years before every home has its own all-purpose robot. It will walk around the house and garden without the need for a perimeter wire to warn it of flower beds that it might fall into, it will be able to clean the stair carpet (which today’s robot vacuum cleaner could not even attempt), it may even be able to drive our car so that we don’t have to purchase a Google self-driving car. The only trouble is that I won’t get any exercise at all.

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