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Robots walk, talk, pour beer and take over technology show

January 11, 2019
VARRAM has developed a robot to care for your pets while you are away with the VARRAM Pet Fitness Robot, as the company claims this smart device helps with pet anxiety and playtime, offering real-time rewards, like treats, and activities, using the Varram app, you can set a schedule for your pet via Bluetooth, shown at CES International Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

LAS VEGAS - Robots that walk, talk, pour beer and play pingpong have taken over the CES gadget show in Las Vegas again. Just don’t expect to find one in your home any time soon.

Most home robot ventures have failed, in part because they’re so difficult and expensive to design to a level of intelligence that consumers will find useful, says Bilal Zuberi, a robotics-oriented venture capitalist at Lux Capital. But that doesn’t keep companies from trying.

“Roboticists, I guess, will never give up their dream to build Rosie,” says Zuberi, referring to the humanoid maid from “The Jetsons.”

But there’s some hope for others. Frank Gillett, a tech analyst at Forrester, says robots with more focused missions such as mowing the lawn or delivering cheeseburgers stand a better shot at finding a useful niche.

ROBOTS THAT DELIVER: There are so many delivery robots at CES that it’s easy to imagine that we’ll all be stumbling over them on the sidewalk - or in the elevator - before long. Zuberi says it’s among the new robot trends with the most promise because the field is drawing on some of the same advances that power self-driving cars.

But it’s hard to tell which - if any - will still be around in a few years.

Segway Robotics, part of the same company that makes electric rental scooters for Lime, Jump and Bird, is the latest to get into the delivery game with a new machine it calls Loomo Delivery. The wheeled office robot can avoid obstacles, board elevators and deliver documents to another floor.

A similar office courier called the Holabot was unveiled by Chinese startup Shenzhen Pudu Technology. CEO Felix Zhang says his company already has a track record selling robots in China, where its Pudubot robot - which looks like shelves on wheels - navigates busy restaurants as a kind of robotic waiter.

ROBOTS FOR DOGS: Does man’s best friend need a robotic pal of its own? Some startups think so.

“There’s a big problem with separation anxiety, obesity and depression in pets,” says Bee-oh Kim, a marketing manager for robotics firm Varram.

The company’s $99 robot is essentially a moving treat dispenser that motivates pets to chase it around. A herd of the small, dumbbell-shaped robots zoomed around a pen at the show - though there were no canine or feline conference attendees to show how the machines really work.

GRANDPARENT WATCH: Samsung is coming out with a robot that can keep its eye on grandparents.

The rolling robot can talk and has two digital eyes on a black screen. It’s designed to track the medicines seniors take, measure blood pressure and call 911 if it detects a fall.

Samsung didn’t say when Samsung Bot Care would be available, but some startups are putting similar ideas in action.

ROBOT FRIENDS: Lovot is a simple robot with just one aim - to make its owner happy.

It can’t carry on long conversations, but it’s still social - approaching people so they can interact, moving around a space to create a digital map, responding to being embraced.

Lovot’s horn-shaped antenna - featuring a 360-degree camera - recognizes its surroundings and detects the direction of sound and voices.

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