For centuries, people have imagined having a personal robot. Such a machine could be a sort of slave, not asking for pay (except maintenance expenses).Until the explosion of electronic technology, however, people’s attempts at robot building resulted in clumsy masses of metal that did little or nothing of any real use.


Personal robots can do all kinds of mundane chores around your house.Such robots are sometimes called household robots. Personal robots can be used in the office; these are called service robots. To be effective, personal robots must incorporate features such as speech recognition, speech synthesis, object recognition, and a vision system. Household robot duties might include:

• Car washing
• General cleaning
• Companionship
• Cooking
• Dishwashing
• Fire protection
• Floor cleaning
• Grocery shopping
• Intrusion detection
• Laundry
• Lawn mowing
• Maintenance
• Meal serving
• Child’s playmate
• Snow removal
• Toilet cleaning
• Window washing

Around the office, a service robot might do things such as:

• Bookkeeping
• General cleaning
• Coffee preparation and serving
• Delivery
• Dictation
• Equipment maintenance
• Filing documents
• Fire protection
• Floor cleaning
• Greeting visitors
• Intrusion detection
• Meal preparation
• Photocopying
• Telephone answering
• Toilet cleaning
• Typing
• Window washing

Practical robots versus toys

Some personal robots have been designed and sold, but until recently, they were not sophisticated enough to be of any practical benefit. Most such robots are more appropriately called hobby robots. A good household robot, capable of doing even a few of the above chores efficiently and reliably, is beyond the financial means of ordinary people. As technology improves and becomes less expensive, the cost (in terms of a person’s real earning power) will go down.

Simpler machines make good toys for children. Interestingly, if a robot is designed and intended as a toy, it often sells better than if it is advertised as a practical machine.

Questions and concerns

Robots must be safe to live around, and not pose any hazard to their owners, especially children. This can be ensured with good design. All robots should function in accordance with Asimov’s three laws.


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