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Robotics Technology

Study Says 4.1M Domestic Robots In Use By 2007 218

jangobongo writes "The U.N.'s annual World Robotics Survey for 2004 predicts that there will be a seven-fold surge in household robots by the end of 2007. Robots that mow your lawn, vacuum, wash windows, clean swimming pools, as well as entertainment robots such as Aibo are all vying to take a place in our homes and ease our workload. The study says that Japan is the leader in consumer robotics, with Europe and North America quickly catching up."
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Study Says 4.1M Domestic Robots In Use By 2007

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  • by metlin ( 258108 ) * on Thursday October 21, 2004 @08:01AM (#10584861) Journal

    I, for one, welcome our new lawn mowing window washing swim suit wearing robotic over...err...dogs?

    • by swordboy ( 472941 ) on Thursday October 21, 2004 @08:14AM (#10584927) Journal
      Not so fast - read closer:

      The U.N.'s annual World Robotics Survey for 2004 predicts that there will be a seven-fold surge in household robots by the end of 2007.

      Hmmm... multiply, carry the one... There it is... in 2007, there will be a grand total of SEVEN household robots.

      Nothing times a billion is still nothing. I would hardly call it a surge.

      • by stecoop ( 759508 ) on Thursday October 21, 2004 @09:18AM (#10585467) Journal
        Nothing times a billion is still nothing

        This is true for regular algebra but in calculus there are formulas where even though the regular math proves 0*n = 0; studying points as they approach really close to the numbers will show that sometimes will not be zero. Like sin(x)/x as x -> 0 should be Undefined right? Well as you study the limits on both sides of 0 to infinite "closeness" you'll see that the formula actually equates to 1. Therefore if you had sin(x)/x as x -> 0 * billion it would equal a billion. Weird huh?
        • It's also weird that in arithmetic n*0 = 0, yet n/0 = infinity.

          So between nothingness and infinity lies the answer!
          • n/0 is not infinity, it is undefined. In math, you cannot divide by zero. You can take limits as the denominator approaches zero, but that is a completely different story. The limit of a function as it approaches a number is irrelivant of the value of the function at that number.
            • sure, if you want to blow my entire cool saying all to bits...

              But I was going with my HP calculator, for when you put in 2/0 = 'infinite'.

              As you can guess, I suck at higher math...and lower math for that matter.
        • Therefore if you had sin(x)/x as x -> 0 * billion it would equal a billion.

          Um, no it wouldn't. Zero times one billion is still zero. Furthermore, sin(0)/0 does not equal 1, it is undefined. The limit of sin(x)/x as x goes to zero is 1, but that doesn't change the fact that you can't divide by zero. Now, if you take the value of that limit and multiply by 1 billion, the result will be 1 billion, because 1 times 1 billion equals 1 billion. Like this: (lim(sin(x)/x,x,0)*10^9 = 10^9, because the first part

  • Time to get (Score:5, Funny)

    by beacher ( 82033 ) on Thursday October 21, 2004 @08:02AM (#10584868) Homepage
    ROBOT INSURANCE []!!!!! Because robots have steel claws and they eat old peoples medicine for food!
  • Yup (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Xpilot ( 117961 ) on Thursday October 21, 2004 @08:03AM (#10584875) Homepage
    Just like how they predicted everyone would using flying cars in the 21st century. Yawn.

    • Re:Yup (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Short Circuit ( 52384 ) * <> on Thursday October 21, 2004 @08:08AM (#10584899) Homepage Journal
      But how many years ahead were the predictions? This study says three years. Weren't flying cars predicted for fifty?

      In terms of maturity, the technology behind household robots is a lot closer to producing affordable units than that behind flying cars.
      • Yes, something like that...

        But in the back of a recent Popular Science they show a cover story from 1935 about personal autogyros, and how they will lead to flying cars in the near future. I think flying cars have been predicted since not long after the Wrights.

        • What is stopping you from buying a personal autogyro []? You can easilly pick one up for less than the price of an average car.
    • Re:Yup (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Firethorn ( 177587 ) on Thursday October 21, 2004 @08:10AM (#10584910) Homepage Journal
      Well, you take the expansion of the definition of "robot" to mean any microprocessor controlled mobile mechanical device. If you look at many of these "robots", you find that they're more wonders of doing more with less than intelligent or complex programmed behavior. The robo-vac? Psedeu-random movement with a cliff & bump sensor. It runs over a room enough to be statistically unlikely to miss a spot, but it does it at a cost of covering most spots multiple times.
      • You may want to visit the iRobot site to get your perception of the navigational logic adjusted. I'm all for healthy cynicism, but let's give credit where credit is due.
        • The gradparent is right. Roomba does not do any sort of mapping to figure out where it hasn't cleaned or where it is okay to travel. It is much more similar to a bump-and-go toy car than what most people think of as a robot. This doesn't change the fact that it is a nice designed and commercially successful product.
      • Re:Yup (Score:4, Informative)

        by danila ( 69889 ) on Thursday October 21, 2004 @09:45AM (#10585854) Homepage
        Actually robovacs develop very quickly. It is true that the first versions were basically suck-and-bump, but newer models often have rudimentary navigation based on infrared sensors (they do build a mental map of the room) and most newer robots (including Aibos) can locate the charger (the most important feature for their autonomy). The newest Roomba can "see" dirt underneath and understand in which areas it needs to suck most, so to speak.
        • Aibos are much more like real robots than the Roombas. The charger location on the roomba isn't very sophisticated. It senses an infrared signal emitted by the charger and follows reactive control laws that maximize the signal -- much like a moth to flame.
          • Re:Yup (Score:3, Insightful)

            by danila ( 69889 )
            Yes, but simply because it was the cheapest solution. When you are dealing with small apartments that you can cross in less than a minute, an infrared marker is the easiest thing to do. It would be silly to slap AI and navigational node networks on that robovac, simply to impress the geeks. The KISS principle guaranteed they can make a popular product - they will improve it as time goes.
    • There's about 95 years left, you never know what can happen.
    • Re:Yup (Score:4, Funny)

      by fleener ( 140714 ) on Thursday October 21, 2004 @08:42AM (#10585072)
      Don't blame us if you haven't bought your own flying car yet. Cheap bastard.
    • Someone on slashdot once said

      "Sure, (X) may be twenty years off now, but there's strong evidence that in fifteen years, it'll only be ten years away!"
  • by Underholdning ( 758194 ) on Thursday October 21, 2004 @08:05AM (#10584884) Homepage Journal
    They forgot sex robots. Add a bit of movement and AI to a RealDoll and you will have a bestseller.
    (I'm only partially kidding.)
  • Yeah, right (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Tyndmyr ( 811713 ) * on Thursday October 21, 2004 @08:05AM (#10584886)
    I love these drastic studies... Sure, it might make sense for people to do that, but since when has the general population had more than two brain cells in use at a time?

    I predict painfully slow progress in robotics, and a vast increase in tech support when they first become prevailent.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    They are going to have to change their charter!




  • perspective pleeze (Score:4, Interesting)

    by lottameez ( 816335 ) on Thursday October 21, 2004 @08:07AM (#10584892)
    From the article: "robots will ...carry out surgery..."

    And you people are worried about e-voting? How about e-i-just-lost-my-ear-lobe-due-to-a-software-glitch -in-the-dr.-kildare-robot?
    • Their are countless studies showing the deathtoll because of medical screwups. Depending on who you believe the number is insanely high. Those stories about people having the wrong bit amputated are not jokes or urban legends. They are common place.

      Sure a badly programmed bot can do the same with one tiny little difference. Once a bug has been fixed it will be fixed in all the bots forever. Doctors make the same mistake over and over again no matter how many times they are told not to.

      • You are forgetting the way people think. It doesn't matter if the technology is safer than the old fashioned way, people will still cry foul whenever something goes wrong. Your post even demonstrates this. Having surgery in our modern world is very safe. Much safer than how it was a hundred years ago, and much safer than leaving the problem untreated. Yet in the few instances when something goes wrong, lynch mobs are after the doctors even if what happened was unavoidable.

        Do you really think that wou

      • And, adding to this, there have been studies too about comparing medical robots with surgeons. Of course, it was for some very limited applications only, but after surgery done by robots there were less complications and the recovery time was shorter. Sorry, I can't give you a reference, but just trust me. :)
  • More importantly, this further proves we are getting closer to a world like I Robot and Matrix. Remember to be kind to your robots.
  • by The I Shing ( 700142 ) on Thursday October 21, 2004 @08:09AM (#10584904) Journal
    Thanks to years of inactivity caused by having robots do all our work for us, in the end we'll be carried out of our houses by robot paramedics and taken to the robot hospital to have our clogged-up human hearts removed and replaced with robot hearts by the robot surgeons.

    Isn't that kind of how the Cybermen got going? Will the Doctor have to stop us from trying to take over the universe?
  • What is a robot? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Laur ( 673497 ) on Thursday October 21, 2004 @08:09AM (#10584905)
    What exactly is the definition of a robot here? Why is a machine that washes your dishes an "appliance" while a machine that mows your lawn is a "robot"? How about washers/dryers (some even have advanced computer control)? What if you put a sophisticated computer in a toaster or a fridge? Where is the line drawn?
    • Like a vacuum bot that spots dirty areas and cleans bad spots more and clean spots not at all.

      Unlike a dish washer wich is totally incapable of spotting a sticky bit of dirt or doing anything about it. Put a clean load in or a totally caked up load and it will do the same routine.

      The robots are supposed to be able to spot what needs to be done and do it.

      But yeah, the line can be blured. Is a videorecorder that cuts out commerercials a robot? A microwave that detects how much energy is needed?

      • For an even closer analogy, my clothes dryer has a sensor in it which detects when the clothes are as dry as I wanted them and shuts the dryer off. I think this would qualify the dryer as a robot, since it has sensors and actuators and responds to stimuli. Of course, that would mean my heating system is also a robot, since it comes on automatically when it gets too cold in the house. Feh.

        I think people look at devices that move around of their own accord and they know, "oh, that's a robot." Since appliance
      • "Unlike a dish washer wich is totally incapable of spotting a sticky bit of dirt or doing anything about it. Put a clean load in or a totally caked up load and it will do the same routine."

        Around 10 year ago you could purchase them. They are for commercial purpose and they just have an on/off switch. They work by doing sample spraying where they would spray water then test the water, if it had dirt particles in it it went to the next cycle.
        They also had microwaves for use for doing potatoes and reheat
    • From the article: "Robot" refers to any machine that operates automatically to perform tasks in a human-like way, often replacing the human workers who did the job previously. I guess a dishwasher wouldn't be covered by this because of the way it performs it's job.
      • If a "robot" is defined as a machine that does a task in the same way as a human, an AIBO is not a robot, since it replaces a dog. Furthermore, neither a lawnmower nor a floorsweeper are robots, they would only be robots if they took the old lawnmower/broom out of the garage/closet and started using that to mow/sweep the lawn/floor.
    • by Hittite Creosote ( 535397 ) on Thursday October 21, 2004 @08:27AM (#10585005)
      When the machine that washes the dirty dishes comes and collects them from the table first, then you can call it a robot.
    • by BrK ( 39585 ) on Thursday October 21, 2004 @08:30AM (#10585016) Homepage
      I think it is considered a robot if it can move from Point A to Point B under it's own power and logic control ("logic" might just be recalling a pre-programmed pattern from a storage device, etc). Or also, if it stays in place, but can manipulate other objects about.

      An appliance can have a large degree of intelligence, but is generally an object that does not move about after installation.

      Ie: a dishwasher that plays chess on a screen is an "appliance". A dishwasher that plays chess by actually moving the pieces about on the board (via articulated arms, etc) is a "robot".

    • A system that operates "closed loop" is more robot-like than one that operates "open loop". A closed loop system compares a measurement to a setpoint and adjusts a system variable to minimize the difference between the measurement and the setpoint. I've spent time developing and testing PID process controllers and it's fascinating to watch them operate. They seem eerily human.

      By my definition, though, a toilet is a robot.

    • Re:What is a robot? (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Boronx ( 228853 )
      The more you you can anthropomorphise an automated machine, the more of a robot it is.

      Or, rather, the more we see it as animated, the more robotic it is. A cockroach robot is animated, but it ain't anthropomorphic.

      Take those little Robie coin-eating robots from Radioshack. They're robots. Now, imagine you've encased Robie in an opaque box with a coin slot in it.

      Robie behaves exactly the same, but we don't see it. It's no longer a robot, it's just a piggie bank that makes a whirring sound.

  • by museumpeace ( 735109 ) on Thursday October 21, 2004 @08:10AM (#10584906) Journal

    2004.10.20: UN predicts much wider use of robots
    An Associated Press report [via yahoo] of United Nations Study on robots [] is predicting robust increases in the use of robots both for both domestic and industrial uses. If you googled [] for this news you would find similar reports each year going back a ways. Here is the PDF straight from the UN. [] What makes this news is that its the UN talking, not some manufacturer's press release and that the numbers are more sanguine than ever:
    "There are now some 21,000 "service robots" in use, carrying out tasks such as milking cows, handling toxic waste, ferrying medicine around hospitals and assisting surgeons. The number is set to reach a total of 75,000 by 2007, the study says."
    But is there a job in this "boom" for any of us?

    For comparison here is last year's report, tidied up by your favorite submitter, Roland Click-appeal [] [hey, at least he RTFA!].
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 21, 2004 @08:10AM (#10584907)
    Robots that mow your lawn, vacuum, wash windows, clean swimming pools

    I thought this was why people had kids.

  • When we all have house cleaning robots, or window washing robots how long do you think it will be before people mod them to be other things. Picture this....

    I just overclocked my WindowWasher PCXL and modded it to become the most powerful BattleBot ever!! Wax on, Wax off...
    • Because "Window" Washer PCXL will be challenged by MS. Soon thereafter your Windows(tm)Washing Robot will explode from a Blue Screen of Death and burn your house down.

      Ah, but the ELUA says you can't sue M$ for damages.

  • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Thursday October 21, 2004 @08:12AM (#10584919) Homepage
    this [] is our future?

  • by zenmojodaddy ( 754377 ) on Thursday October 21, 2004 @08:13AM (#10584925)
    I may have mentioned this before, but Anton LaVey suggested that the next big industry will be the production of robotic companions, because they can be programmed to provide the exact type of stimulation or gratification that the user requires, thus avoiding the need to interact with real people who are imperfect at best.

    Natch, the Slashdot model will look like Princess Leia, know how to handle a soldering iron, and talk about how great Linux is. Or something...

    There may also be an easily-repairable Wesley Crusher model for those 'GNYAR!' moments. Or Jar Jar Binks. Or that ultimate nightmare, Jar Jar Crusher.
    • Put a robot in one of these [] and I'd consider buying one! Or two!

    • by SmallFurryCreature ( 593017 ) on Thursday October 21, 2004 @08:32AM (#10585031) Journal
      Saw a bit on tv about robots designed to deal with autistic childeren. These kids find human interaction far to complex to the point where they just give up and stay in their own world.

      What they need is something to play with them but in an extremely simple ruleset. They don't understand lies and half-lies let alone jokes. Human caretakers can't descend that low (we are talking well below the social skills of even a pet) but robots can. They can be programmed with a very simple ruleset of play and repeat this over and over again.

      So for these kids at least the future of robotic playmates is now. They don't need massive advances in AI, the exact opposite infact. The total predictabilty of current AI is exactly what they need.

      • Your concept has validity, but some of your comments are inaccurate. Most autistic children have social skills well above that of a pet, especially if they are in an Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) program that addresses these skills. In fact, of the more than 20 autistic children I know (all of whom are in an ABA program), ALL of them have social skills above that of a pet. (I'm going to stop using that comparison now, because it's beginning to bother me.)

        I think where this idea has the most merit, how

        • Simply put, the pets I have and have had were all capable of feeling the mood I and my family were having. Granted we are talking cats and dogs here but these animals understood that others had different feelings then their own.

          Some of the worst cases I have been around of autistic childeren lacked this capabilty. Perhaps lately better threathment has come around, it been 20 years so I certainly would hope so but not at the time.

          There reason I used pet was because it was given to me as an example of how d

  • by gomel ( 527311 ) on Thursday October 21, 2004 @08:19AM (#10584956) Homepage Journal
    ... and none have the three Laws of Robotniks programmed in.
    I smell trouble.
  • While I'd love to have somebody/thing else to mow my grass, I'm not sure that I trust an autonomous mechanical device with lethal whirling blades on it to wander about my lawn. Silly of me, I know ...

  • by (SM) Spacemonkey ( 812689 ) on Thursday October 21, 2004 @08:23AM (#10584978) []
    At first this may seem a pointless karma whore link to wikipedia, but I have a point.

    When you talk to the average person about Robots, they think of that terrible Robin Williams movie, or more recently I,Robot (the movie, not the terrific book). The point is, the term "robot" conjures up thoughts of artifical humans. However the strick definition of a robot is a machine automated to perform tasks in the place of humans. This is why I get disappointed reading articles like this, I go in with the anticipation of every geek. "Sex robots by 2007!" Ok maybe female geeks want cuddle robots... Anyway instead we get stuck with.... lawn mowers, and pretend dogs?
  • I wonder what the use of such studies is. A prediction like this is largely uninteresting to most people, and no more than speculation to others. Still, announcements like this one are made from time to time.

    Is it just interested people publishing their guesses, or is there some other motivation? Perhaps they want to encourage the industry to start making robots? Or they want to create a market for them?
  • Very prescient (Score:4, Informative)

    by esconsult1 ( 203878 ) on Thursday October 21, 2004 @08:49AM (#10585124) Homepage Journal
    I was reading Marshall Brain's essays on the subject yesterday when I caught a gander at the news story.

    Check out the series of essays on:

    • Manna [] software that "runs" service oriented businesses, therefore driving down wages
    • Robotic Nation [] about how robots are slowly taking over "routine" type jobs.

    I'm sure this was covered in Slashdot sometime before, but Marshall's essays are eerie when juxtaposed with this article.

  • I've been using one of the "poolbots" for years now to vacuum my pool. There is a stable, mature industry that supplies robots to clean your pool. Kreepy Crawly, Polaris 360, Hayward and others will attach to connection points on your pool filtration system to clean your pool for you. And, they do a good job of vacuuming up leaves, dirt and the like while also helping to inhibit build up on the pool sides. These all exist at a price point that is acceptable for the quality of service that they perform.

  • by pair-a-noyd ( 594371 ) on Thursday October 21, 2004 @09:14AM (#10585401)
    I would like to have some of the auto-cleaning robots, like the roomba []
    and the Robomaid []

    to help me out around the house. It's almost impossible for me to do housework. Having a large dog makes housework even harder, what with the hair problem. I can not sweep, vacuum, mop, etc..

    I think they should classify these devices as assistance devices for disabled/handicapped people because I can't afford them as I'm sure many other disabled/handicapped are on very tight budgets like myself. It would be nice to get them covered like scooters and wheelchairs are..

    I won't be holding my breath though..

  • These can join the other robots we already have in our homes:

    - Washing machine
    - Dryer
    - Dishwasher
    - Food processor, coffee maker, standing blender, bread machine, ice maker
    - VCR/TiVo
    - Stereo with CD auto-changer/jukebox
    - Alarm Clock
    - Snow thrower

    They fit the definition of a robot per the article:

    "Robot" refers to any machine that operates automatically to perform tasks in a human-like way, often replacing the human workers who did the job previously. In most cases, robots move under their own propulsion a

  • Note that according to the study, the vast leading majority of robots are ones used in industry most often for manufacturing (the study mentions the auto industry, but semiconductor fabs are starting to become all robotic as well). The study goes on to say that even though household robots will become more common, the overwhelming majority will still be industrial.
  • ...flying cars will be massively deployed in 2008, people will take holidays on Mars by 2009, and you will be able to fly to Saturn in 2010.

    Editorial note: this information will be inaccurate and grossly overestimated as of 2008.
  • What would be the best way to way a success in robotics for an X-Prize like competition. Multiple prizes A.I. developement Speed and manuverablity pressure atmosphere conditions?
  • Robots mow your lawn, vacuum, wash windows and clean swimming pools... in Japan! []
  • Robotic Nation by Marshall Brain [], a great read on our appending doom.

    I for one, welcome our new robot overlords. :\

  • They're not real robots until you can have both sex, and conversations, with them.

    "The first alien race we meet will be the one we build ourselves." --DB_Story

  • I predict that as bandwidth gets cheaper, remote-controlled robots controlled from the so-called third-world will be taking over a lot of blue-collar jobs such as flipping burgers or painting houses. I doubt they will be as effecient as a single human, but for the labor rate savings a place can run two such bots. Plus, they can work the night shift.

    We don't need AI for "smart" robots, we just need cheap bandwidth to reach cheap overseas brains. Offshore labor will screw more and more professions.
  • jobs? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Cyno ( 85911 ) on Thursday October 21, 2004 @04:37PM (#10591829) Journal
    What will happen to all our jobs if robots automate everything.

    In a capitalist society like ours a person is only worth their salt if they provide some valuable labor to society. What will happen to all those people once their jobs are automated. With they be worth any salt?

    I personally think that every person is worth more money than we could ever print. They are worth so much because they have within their possession a neural network with decades of programming that allow them to be creative and innovative in ways machines are not yet capable. Besides all that they are human, like me, so they automaticly get a +1 value of anything that is not. However, capitalists don't view the world this way.

    I am affraid that these coming robots will displace jobs and the net result will be more poverty which leads to more crime and mental illness.

    Wouldn't it be a lot simpler to phase out the existence of money than to attempt to make enough work for everyone to keep busy?

    Perhaps if things get bad enough we will become more open minded to these ideas.

    Similarly if you want people to be happy don't force them to live in poverty. Want to prevent crime, prevent homeless and jobless environments. Want to stop terrorism, don't shoot their relatives, provide them a better way of live by sharing and giving.

    We would be a lot more productive if we didn't spend all our time counting coins, IMHO. What if we invested that time, instead, in building robots and automating labor?

Money can't buy love, but it improves your bargaining position. -- Christopher Marlowe