LAS VEGAS — Advances in technology mean that a future in which we’re surrounded by robots may not be far off -- a prospect that can be frightening to some people. But that day, at least by looking at the show floor at International CES 2014, is not today.
By and large, the most appealing and most advanced consumer robots are cute, fun and totally defeatable if it came down to one-on-one combat with the machines.
Sphero, for example, is basically a ball. But a smart one. Made by the firm Orbotix, the techie update to the world’s most basic toy can be operated via smartphone and has some 30 apps that interact with it to make the experience a little richer than a high-tech game of fetch.
An Orbotix rep at the booth used an app to fight zombies with the Sphero via an augmented reality game. Users watch the Sphero’s real-world movement through their screens, while the app overlays a tiny, digital zombie invasion that players must fend off by rolling right over them.
Then there’s Parrot, which already makes real, grown-up drones. The company has brought along some flying and jumping drones aimed more at the toy chest than anything else. Parrot’s flying minidrone, even in its demo video, seems best suited to making mischief. The two-part drone can fly and then jettison a smaller, remote-controlled car that may strike terror into the heart of ... your cat. The jumping “insect” drone could also be used for some good pranks.
Other robots are less cheeky and more helpful, such as Roomba-maker iRobot’s
improved mopping bot, the Scooba.
So, if you’re feeling your inner Luddite coming on with all this talk about robots taking over the world, put your mind at ease. By and large, the robots at CES are, well, fun.
Of course, that may just be what they want you think.