What's a luxury robot? According to a new Forbes
Special Report by Leah
Hoffman, any sort of personal robot bought by the
wealthy who usually buy other luxury goods. And the rich it seems, don't
want robots per se. They just want machines that get the job done
whatever they may be called. The article also notes that as the price of
robots comes down, these luxury items will become commodity items. The
Forbes Special feature also includes reviews of
their top picks for the category of luxury robot. Among the choices:
mowers, and pool
The Forbes article includes this quote by steve!
Cool, check it out...
"There just aren't enough people out there who want to own a
robot," says Steve Rainwater, chairman of Network Cybernetics and co-
founder of the robotics blog robots.net. "They want a vacuum cleaner
or a lawn mower or a pool cleaner, something that does something for
them. And it has to work."
As usual with being quoted in the press it doesn't come out quite the
way you said it. That quote is from a lengthy discussion of the
different views of consumers that American companies have vs. Japanese
companies. The point being that American companies are making
task-specific robots like vacuums and lawn mowers because they perceive
that the public wants solutions to specific short-term problems like
high grass or dirty carpet and they want to make a quick buck off of it.
The Japanese meanwhile, are making general purpose, humanoid robots
because they perceive a long-term, country-wide need for intelligent
machines to assist with caring for their aging population (among other
long term needs).
So it's not so much that I think people want task-specific robots - I
think American robot manufacturers think that. Personally, I fall more
in the Japanese mindset and would prefer to see more general purpose robots.
Still, name-checked by Forbes Steve....
Your longer analysis makes sense. Surely one of our problems is that
whatever the manufacturers want, consumers are expecting their
I also think the Japanese have got the right idea for robotics in the
longer term. Its my thinking that many of the 'American-style'
functional robots will get swallowed up by the home automation category.
We won't be thinking of our refridgerator as intelligent or robotic but
it will be. As that becomes less and less of a specialty factor and a
mainstream featureset of refridgerators General Electric will less and
less refer to it as robotic in their marketing or sales pitch.
On the other side of the curve Japanese biped or humanoid styled robots
that are presently very sophisticated but totally useless for most
practical purposes will eventually start to have a few useful/commercial
functions and will always be thought of as robots.
In the end it doesn't really matter but I suspect we'll have automated
cleaning products, home maintenance systems (climate control, security
etc.) automated vehicles... all from the US, and robots from Japan :)