It goes without saying that you wouldn’t mind having a domestic robot cleaning up after your kids while organizing your life and keeping the fridge full. It’s the future we were all promised, which is why Amazon’s announcement last week of it’s voice-controlled Echo garnered a fair bit of hyperventilating in certain tech-centric circles. Echo is just the latest in what’s proving to be the year of the digital domestic servant and, while none of the following devices are going to vacuum up a hallway full of Legos or spot clean a car seat, some of them may actually make your life easier – or way more creepy.
Amazon Echo$199 ($99 for Prime members)
What It Is: A marriage (holy or unholy depending on your feelings about either product) of Siri and Sonos, Echo is an internet-enabled speaker that understands and responds to requests.
What It Does: Creates and organizes shopping and to-do lists; answers basic questions through internet searches, streams music from Amazon Music Library, Prime Music, TuneIn and iHeartRadio, provides news and weather reports.
It’s Awesome Because: If you’re already addicted to Amazon, it’s going to make buying stuff really, really easy.
It’s Creepy Because: Amazon is currently just ok at profiling you; Echo is pretty much the equivalent of inviting an Amazon employee to move in with you and start taking notes.
What It Is: An internet-connected camera on a 3-axis motor that sees, hears and responds to people in the room while looking (and sounding) like a Pixar character who lost its legs.
What It Does: Takes photos and video on demand; video calling; receives, reads, and sends messages, plays interactive games and reads audio books, syncs with home connectivity systems, performs internet-related requests.
Why It’s Awesome: Invented by one of the world’s foremost robotics experts (as opposed to, say, the world’s largest retailer), Jibo is built on an open platform that will encourage all sorts of innovations – imagine training it to sit in a nursery and seamlessly log an infant’s every feeding, nap and diaper change.
Why It’s Creepy: How many of the world’s super villains have also been “foremost robotics experts”?
What It Is: The closest mankind has come to inventing R2D2, Keecker is a mobile home entertainment system that cruises around your house and shows video on flat surfaces with a 1080p DLP projector and sound system that includes a mobile subwoofer.
What It Does: Lets you stream movies, watch TV or play video games anywhere in and around the house – like in the backyard or on the ceiling above your bed (if you’re into that kind of thing). It also provides basic home security features like motion and carbon monoxide detection.
Why It’s Awesome: The product video features a kid going to sleep with the entire Milky Way projected around his room, which is pretty awesome. DLP projector installations are pricey, so the idea of having a mobile indoor/outdoor solution in one unit is cool, too.
Why It’s Creepy: The home security functions are pitched as a first step toward a mobile home sentry, and there have been exactly zero examples of that ending well in science fiction.
What It Is: A 4-foot-high, internet-enabled humanoid robot with 3D cameras for eyes and an ultrasound system that helps it move around without bumping into things.
What It Does: Provide companionship. Pepper’s manufacturer clearly states, “At the risk of disappointing you, he doesn’t clean, doesn’t cook and doesn’t have super powers.” Pepper is programmed to recognize and react to human emotions and apparently not much else. It will be able to look things up online for you, though – so it’s like the world’s most expensive version of Google Now.
Why It’s Awesome: Pepper’s entire reason for being is to be a robot companion to humans, which means he could one day look after your kids in daycare or your parents as they get older.
Why It’s Creepy: On second thought, are you sure you want that thing anywhere near your kids?