Robot helpers in the home are getting closer and closer to becoming an everyday reality.
South by Southwest (SXSW) Conference and Festivals took place earlier this month in Austin, Texas. Since 1987, this event has brought innovation, creativity, and music together in one place touted as “the premier destination for discovery.”
So, what’s this got to do with smart homes?
Well, at SXSW 2019, LG Electronics showcased six of their CLOi Home robots in the aptly named Inspiration Gallery.
LG’s Chul B Lee (senior VP) describes SXSW as “a giant focus group testbed for new product ideas and concepts.” The Korean giant naturally saw this annual gathering as the perfect chance to give their robots another outing with a twist.
Out came six AI robots dancing and singing while immaculately styled in fetching outfits as an electronic 21st-century boy band. With a fetching backdrop of color-changing glowsticks, the crowd was issued interactive tablets allowing them to set colored themes for events. LG wanted to connect the audience and performers in just the same way you want to connect to the tech in your home.
These LG robots were debuted at CES 2018 and are already operational in South Korea’s Incheon airport. We’ll highlight the range today and look at what these concept models might mean for the future of robots in our homes.
What Is CLOi?
Pronounced "Chloe," LG CLOi is a sub-brand of LG devoted wholly to a group of robots first brought out in public back in January 2018.
The name comes from combining CLever Operating intelligence.
Using a mixture of AI and machine learning, the range of CLOi robots can be viewed as potential companions that could deliver on many fronts including:
- Learning from users
- Identifying with users
- Recognizing the emotional state of users
- Learning from their environment
- Thinking independently
- Expressing feelings
- Communicating to help users
- Recognizing space and objects
- Acting as playmates for kids and pets
We say could since LG has still not confirmed any official release date for these robots. On their website this is the disclaimer in place:
“The products & services featured on this website may not currently be available in the market and may vary in design, features, and other specifications from the actual product at the time of launch.” - LG ThinQ
There's an essential qualification, though.
LG adds “You can expect to see these robots helping you in the not-too-distant future.”
So, CLOi may still be at the conceptual stage, but we’re certainly getting nearer to these robots becoming a more interactive and hands-on alternative to Alexa sooner than you might imagine.
We’ll take you on a quick walk-through of the full extent of the range as it stands today.
The LG CLOi Range at a Glance
Coming in 7 different iterations, many of these robots are more intended for commercial than residential use.
LG CLOi Home
CLOi Home is a glimpse at how digital assistants are likely to evolve over the coming year or two.
Powered by Clova, LG is also working with both Google and Amazon, so you're likely to be able to use voice commands using Google Assistant and Alexa as well as the South Korean rival.
Management of smart home devices and appliances could get a whole lot easier. Issuing a command that you're leaving home will switch all your appliances instantly into energy-saving mode. While setting Scenes or scheduling events is reasonably straightforward, it's these incremental advances that make all the difference.
CLOi Home will be able to act as a media streaming assistant in just the same way as the current crop of virtual butlers.
You’ll also enjoy the same remote access and the ability to get CLOi to check up on any doors or windows you think could be unsecured.
In many ways, CLOi Home is a smart speaker with a smiling face. There are small tweaks in place, though. The robot can express feelings of anger or happiness depending on the way you interact with her. By following your voice as you move around and looking at you as you issue requests, you’ll get a degree of personalization not present yet with Alexa.
As with all this range of CLOi robots, Home is still very much a work in progress. What it does show quite clearly is that the age of sci-fi in the home is edging ever closer.
Soon, you’ll be able CLOi to fire up Star Wars on your rollable TV and enjoy seeing R2-D2 on screen with a real-life counterpart sat right beside you.
We're genuinely excited here at Smart Home to see how robots evolve. We're sure the pace is set to pick up as Samsung, and other significant players join the fray.
LG CLOi CleanBot
Robotic vacuums have long had a place in the home so what's so different from the LG CLOi CleanBot?
If you're traveling through Incheon airport, you can already see this robot in action eagerly beavering away. If you find yourself in the cleaning path, CLOi will politely ask you to move.
Unlike a regular robotic vacuum which needs programming to kick into action, CleanBot can determine which areas are dirty then set about cleaning without further prompts. By harnessing this level of intelligence, robotic vacuums will usher in a new era of convenience with automation ratcheted right up.
Since the intelligence extends to person recognition, CleanBot will work its way silently around inanimate objects while requesting any human to step aside.
While this oversized bot would not make a neat fit in a smart home in its current dimensions, the future of cleaning for smart businesses looks glimmering.
LG CLOi LawnBot
Later this week, we’ll be taking a look at Husqvarna’s new hill-climbing robotic lawnmower.
The CLOi LawnBot is LG's effort to update the intelligence of self-propelled mowers allowing you to control it using voice commands so you can supervise without needing to lift a finger. If you've got a larger and more complex garden with areas requiring a different level of care, you can issue precise instructions.
If you've got a busy outside area with lots of obstacles, pet toys and children's' toys scattered around, LawnBot can detect these and slow down accordingly. You won’t need to fear a hulking mower barreling out of control, then.
As with all the robots in the CLOi range, these features are currently only touched upon with the usual kicker that the finished product might “vary in design, features, and other specifications." That's why today we're only giving you a bald overview of what these robots might do and look likely to do rather than providing a blow-by-blow preview. Things might very well evolve before LawnBot comes to market.
LG CLOi PorterBot
PorterBot is another robot targeted purely at commercial users, notably airports.
Ready to be rolled out in South Korea, PorterBot looks like a mini trash can, but it's far from rubbish. You can slip your suitcase inside if you struggle carrying luggage even using a trolley.
Do you have elderly relatives about to travel and concerned about getting lost in the airport? For them or any other travelers needing a helping hand, PorterBot can act as a robotic guide to streamline proceedings.
Then, when you get to the nuts-and-bolts of checking in, the robot can help out, too. Whether scanning tickets or room information for an airport hotel, the days of a robotic helper are pretty much upon us. Human employees are already being replaced wholesale in supermarkets where self-serve checkouts have long been commonplace. It’s only natural for this to extend to busier commercial environments where robots make great practical sense.
LG CLOi ServeBot
Hotels might soon be in for a real treat with ServeBot stepping in to take care of many menial jobs day and night.
Voice controlled room service order, and delivery is arguably a more personal experience than picking up a phone and eliminates the need for human interaction if you've had a few drinks.
Other room service duties like linen collection or delivery and even serving up food might soon be carried out without a human touch.
The possibilities for ServeBot are considerable, but as with the rest of the range, LG is fairly tight-lipped on specifics.
Drop us a line and let us know how you think ServeBot could serve you.
LG CLOi GuideBot
A multilingual guide capable of serving up the answers to basic questions, GuideBot could have many use cases from airports to hotels to major tourist attractions.
From being guided to your departure gate at the airport to being ushered around sections of a theme park, GuideBot is like a taller and more intelligent version of PorterBot. On the flipside, you'll need to carry your bags!
LG CLOi CartBot
CartBot takes the shopping trolley and brings it crashing into the 21st century smart home era. After all, once you’re used to automation at home, it becomes something you expect as standard when you’re out and about.
You might be guided around the store based on your shopping list. Rather than following the meandering path mapped out by stores to tempt you into spending more, your route will optimize for your gain, not theirs.
When you get to self-checkout, you can kiss goodbye to that tiresome process of scanning all your items. You know only too well how frustrating that can be, but CartBot will automatically tot up the contents and hit you with the total.
How about if you can’t find something you suddenly want? You might be able to get help locating products without needing to call for assistance. Just ask CartBot then let yourself be guided to the shelf in question.
Again, we should stress that these are just some of the mooted features and might very well be subject to change.
How Might We Use Robots in The Smart Home of The Near Future?
Use cases for robot helpers are diverse.
Always-on robots where you don't need to fish out your smartphone or dabble with an app continually will reduce a great deal of friction.
In a chat with Forbes, Moor Insights and Strategy, tech analysts, suggested it might still be five years before robots are adopted into the home en masse.
Where virtual assistants of 2019 offer very little indeed by way of personality, robots are taking these smarts and adding in emotion to bring the voice assistant experience far more fully to life.
Robots are used for a range of helping tasks from kitchen prep and folding laundry through to ensuring you don't leave the house without everything you need and assisting with all your entertainment needs.
It goes unsaid there will be seamless integration with all your smart home tech, powered through the onboard voice assistants.
What remains to be seen is how many people will be comfortable with robots taking a more hands-on role in family management. While a mechanical guard dog might be pretty easy to imagine, how do you feel about robots acting as playmates or babysitters for your kids?
Much, of course, depends on your attitude toward tech and your relationship with it. Just as some people would never tolerate an always-on speaker for privacy reasons, so many would have no interest in a robot. As with any radical new concept, mass adoption will take time, but we're sure it's not far off, perhaps even closer than the half-decade mooted by Moor Insights and Strategy.
As you can see, real and functional robots are already very much a reality. While much of LG’s is targeted at commercial users, the technology underpinning these robots will doubtless make its way into smart homes of the near-future.
The LG range focuses less on novelty – boy band from SXSW notwithstanding! – And more on practicality. Much of what you read today about the future of robotics looks at more far-fetched use cases. We’ve deliberately instead given you a snapshot of some of the pedestrian but useful ways in which robots could soon be helping you out with your daily grind.
We’ve got a busy schedule this coming fortnight with more of the latest smart home news along with some great product reviews. Bookmark our blog, follow our social media, and look out for us on Google News!