Category Archives: Home robots

Garco the robot

A recent auction lot on eBay prompted me to carry out a little research. The photograph (right) shows Walt Disney with Garco the robot in a publicity still for the Disney TV programme  “Mars and Beyond” which aired on 4th December, 1957.

Garco appears to have been remotely controlled and not totally independent, but, for the time, was very advanced. The suggested uses he could be put to, in the vintage YouTube video (linked below), from the American television programme “Science Fiction Theatre” were:
• Handle dangerous chemicals, or
• Radioactive isotopes, too hot for the ordinary man, or
• Touch live wires without ever getting hurt

The programme’s presenter, Truman Bradley, goes on to say that, “some day soon, we’ll have an automatic man around the house, to mow the lawn, dry the dishes, drive the car, and babysit when we go out. That’s for tomorrow, or the day after, but tomorrow may come soon.”

Sadly, at the present time (sixty years on) I am still waiting for this automatic man to work in my home. I think it will have to be the day after tomorrow!

Read more here.

Advertisements

Life-sized Planet Robots made in the UK

Shawcraft_LogoAndy Shaw makes fantastic ‘life-sized’ robot replicas which are inspired by 1950s Japanese toy robots. His company, Shawcraft, also makes replica petrol pumps for your classic garage, games room or living room which can be used as storage cabinets, or even a cocktail bar!

Shawcraft_SAM_1408His robots are produced from purpose-built moulds and are designed for strength and simplicity. Where possible pigmented gelcoat is used, making the robots durable and resistant to scrapes and knocks.

The ‘Planet Robots’ are stunning, standing five foot eight inches tall, in gleaming black and red – just like the original Japanese tin toys. The original toys were made by Yoshia KO of Japan in the late 1950′s and were an unlicensed copy of Robby the Robot, star of the 1956 MGM film Forbidden Planet.

Shawcraft_WalkTalkToyThe toys were made in several colours and versions, the most popular being black and red with clockwork walking action and sparks shooting around the interior visible through acetate ‘windows’.

The Shawcraft Planet Robots can be supplied in any colour combination although only the black/red version is pigmented gelcoat. They can be specified with either three fingered hand or replica claw.

Just like the original the chest plate and face grill are finished then added to the robot giving a crisp, clean joint. All arm and leg joints are well defined so the robot looks real.

Shawcraft_T4They can be supplied as a static prop or with flashing lights in the dome ‘ears’. They can also be ordered with a voice, activated by passers-by, and with intermittent head-turn and flashing ‘voice light’. A radio-controlled walking version is also available.

I asked Andy when his interest in robots arose. “At four years old, back in 1967 when my Gran gave me a black and red clockwork Planet Robot.”

When he was 11, he wrote to the BBC for a copy of their Dr Who Dalek plans, which had been printed in the Radio Times. He began building a Dalek immediately then realised the plans were wrong. So he used the Dalek neck section as the torso of his first large robot.

Shawcraft_build1It takes a couple of weeks to build a Planet Robot and they are in great demand. I have occasionally seen them for sale on eBay, so I asked Andy if he has many in stock, he said, “yes, I build them for stock, but they always go before I can make a second!”

If you would like to see his robots out in the real world, they can be seen at a travelling exhibition called ‘Robot’, and they are often seen at art galleries and universities. They’re also at Randy’s Toy Shop, USA*; Metropolis Toys, Burton on Trent; Celestial Toy Store; a barber shop in Essex; Uncle Sam’s diner.

AdventuresInScienceFictionLate next year they will be at Neil Coles Adventures in Science Fiction, a new science fiction museum opening in Allendale, Northumberland.

Finally, I asked Andy how long he thinks it will be before we have domestic servant robots, or robot butlers, in our homes … and would he want one?

“Domestic robots are just about seven years away I reckon. I think they’d have been here now if the global economy hadn’t been shafted by the greedy useless parasitic financiers. I embarked, at four years old, to develop and build a domestic robot for myself. Oh yes, I want one.”

You can contact Andy Shaw by email or visit his website to see more examples of his work.

See also Pikore page.

*If you have an original Japanese Planet Robot toy with missing parts, Randy’s Toy Shop specialise in making replacements. They’re not cheap, but how else are you going to repair one of those rare toys? Prices from their catalogue (click here for website) Antenna, $55; Hands $35 each; Roller wheels $25 each.

Home Robot: Rise of the Fadbot

“The third batch of 1,000 Pepper sold out within one minute again on Saturday, August 29th. The next sale is scheduled at 10am on Sept. 26 on the Softbank corporate website. We are very pleased with this very promising start.”
Aldebaran Newsletter, September 2015

Are home robots just a passing fad? Things come and go. The latest must-have invention may be in great demand when it first appears, but will it have staying power? Remember the Apple iPod? The peak year for worldwide sales was 2008 when almost 55 million were sold. By 2014 sales had dropped to “just” 14 million. Of course that’s not bad, but other things have taken their place.

Mobile phones, iPads and other tablet devices have gradually taken over from iPods as technology has advanced. However there is now talk of the iPad boom coming to an end.

Should we think of home robots in the same technological field? Are they going to be just a fad? Admittedly it is only the beginning, but are robot sales going to peak and then just drop off year by year when something else comes along to interest those members of the general public with disposable income?

Rise of the Fadbot

The majority of robots available, or soon to be available, are really only just toys with a few useful functions. Those functions could easily be supplied by desktop computers. The present-day Fadbot will not take away the jobs that need to be done each and every day in the home.

If I was going to spend a lot of money on a robot, I would want it to do more than chat to me, even if it was trying to cheer me up. My ideal home robot would go round tidying up the house, perhaps a bit of light dusting. My robot would also be able to clean the windows, take the rubbish out, weed the garden, clean and polish the car.

I think that the robots we will be able to buy over the next two or three years are just Fadbots. They will be looked at in the museums of the future and children will ask why they were so basic.

The potential income for major companies, such as Apple and Google, from robots that can be classed as proper modern domestic servants, is so great that when sales of the initial Fadbots begin to decline, new, and truly useful robots will take their places. But will it be harder for the big companies to sell their domestic servant robots after people have become bored with their Fadbots?

Lucy Black, writing on i-programmer, 7th September, has much the same view as me:

What is it about social robots that makes them so attractive? The latest is Buddy as its Indegogo campaign is coming to a close with over $500,000 pledged – 500% over the inital goal. I don’t know about you, but I want a robot to help with the chores not the chats. But I seem to be in a minority if the recent crowd funding of Jibo and Buddy are anything to go by. A social robot is one that is designed to interact with humans and be “helpful” in ways that are not particularly tangible. The robot might take a photo, or remind you of an appointment,or play you some music, but it won’t physically interact with the world which means it cannot bring you a drink or load the dishwasher.

The above-mentioned Indegogo campaign actually closed at a massive 618% funded – $617,830 raised in just two months. The first Buddy robots will ship next year.

Here is what Buddy’s inventors have to say: “Open source and easy to use, Buddy protects your home, entertains your kids, and helps you stay connected with the ones you love.”

Will the families of the future, with their domestic servant robots, feel like the folks upstairs at Downton Abbey? Will their robots be dressed in traditional Edwardian servants’ clothes?

I would love to have some kind of sponsorship for this Blog. Sadly, by announcing that all the robots available to buy are just Fadbots, I have probably just shot myself in the foot.

Your comments and views on this topic would be most welcome.