The Amazon Echo Speaker and 10 Other Robots You Can Actually Buy
Earlier today, we heard about an amazing new gadget Amazon has up its sleeve: The Amazon Echo. Although it looks like a regular old bluetooth speaker, it comes equipped with the ability to do much, much more. It can play you music; it can tell you jokes; it can tell you how to spell words you've somehow forgotten how to spell; it can even buy you toilet paper — because, as Bustle's Sara Tan pointed out, ultimately, Echo's true goal is to make you shop more on Amazon. Essentially, it's Siri on steroids (your move, Apple).
There's a catch, though, of course; it's not out quite yet, and you'll have to request an invitation in order to be able to buy it. However, if you're an Amazon Prime member and manage to acquire one of those coveted invitations, you'll be able to get it for the low, low price of $99 — 50 percent off its sticker price of $199.
But even though the Amazon Echo hasn't hit the Internet's digital shelves yet, there are still plenty of other robots out there that you can buy right this very second if you wanted to. Some of them are more impressive than others, but who's counting when you can purchase everything from a robot dog to a robot mixologist? The future is now, you guys. The future is now.
No roundup of robots you can actually purchase would be complete without a nod to the mighty Roomba. First introduced by iRobot in 2002, it’s everything from a godsend to a punchline and from an actual home cleaning device to a vehicle for a cat wearing a shark costume. They’re not exactly cheap — the latest model, the 880, will set you back almost $700 — but they’re a fond and oft-utilized staple in our arsenal of pop culture references nonetheless.
I swear, JIBO is something straight out of science fiction — except it actually exists. Billed as “the world’s first family robot,” it does just about everything the AI in your favorite pieces of sci-fi do: It takes pictures; it’s a personal assistant; and most notably, it has an actual personality. It interacts with your family like it’s… well, part of it. How crazy-amazing is that?
I’ll be honest: Socibot kind of freaks me out. Essentially it’s a really advanced version of Facetime — but instead of displaying the visages of your loved ones on a flat screen, it actually projects it onto a humanoid figure. It can even (gulp) mimic your buddies’ behavior. Said Nic Carey, research coordinator at Engineered Arts, which makes the device, “It’s like having a real presence in the room. You simply upload a static photo of the face you want it to mimic and our software does the rest, animating the features down to subtle mouth twitches and eyes that follow you around the room. Even when they’re not speaking, it really feels like there’s someone there, keeping an eye on you.” It’s pretty incredible… but I’m also 99 percent sure that this is how the robopocalypse begins.
At $229, this little guy is by far one of the most affordable options on this list. He might not be as advanced as, say, JIBO — but he’s easily accessible, and he’ll even teach you how to program. Romo uses an iPhone as its “brain”; with his ability to send back live video from his on-board camera, he is, as TechNorms notes, “definitely the robot you’d want to send into a questionable building before going in first.” He’s got a personality, too, and he’ll interact with surrounding stimulus. Cute!
5. The Robot That Builds Itself
This one may not be on the market yet, but it’s still all kinds of awesome (and scary): Researchers at MIT have created a 3D-printed robot that actually assembles itself when you heat up the parts. Said lead researcher Daniela Rus, “We have this big dream of the hardware compiler, where you can specify, ‘I want a robot that will play with my cat,’ or, ‘I want a robot that will clean the floor,’ and from this high-level specification, you actually generate a working device.” Wow. Just… wow.
Don’t want an actual dog? Get a Zoomer instead. Sure, it may be a kid’s toy — but I don’t judge. Besides, it comes in a dinosaur variety, too. Who doesn’t want a pet dinosaur?
7. Whatever This Thing Is
It’s called the Kid's Walker Cyclops, and it makes Pacific Rim a reality for your child… as long as you have $20,000 to burn, that is.
8. Litter Robot
Here’s something that’s a little more practical — and, in theory, an awesome idea: The Litter Robot automatically cycles after your cat uses it, depositing the waste in a pull-out drawer for easy disposal. Even better, it works on a timer: On the cat’s way in, s/he steps on a weight sensor that sets the clock for seven minutes. This gives the cat enough time to take care of business; then, after the seven minutes are up and the cat is presumably finished and long gone, it begins its cleaning cycle. Neat, no?
Full disclosure: My SO and I have one of these. Originally we got it for our older cat; she’s a Main Coon (which, as a breed, tend to be roughly as big as a small tiger), so we got the biggest model available. There’s just one problem: She’s terrified of it. Our younger cat doesn’t mind it and actually uses it every so often; alas, though, she doesn’t weigh enough to set the sensor off when she climbs in or out. At least you can cycle it manually at the push of a button, though, which makes litter box cleaning a little easier. I would imagine it’s the greatest thing ever for people whose pets aren’t literal scaredy cats.
Look out, Roomba — there’s a new robot vacuum in town. After 16 years of development, the Dyson 360 Eye is finally set to hit shelves in 2015 (first in Japan, then later the world); it’ll do a whole lot the Roomba doesn’t do, including allowing you to schedule cleanings from your phone while you’re not home… but I’m kind of afraid to think about what it might cost. Find out more at the Dyson website.
The only thing you need to know about Monsieur is that it’s an artificially intelligent robotic bartender. That’s right: As soon as you walk in the door, he’ll mix you up your favorite cocktail — and he’ll make it extra strong if he knows you’ve had a long day. He’ll set you back a whopping $3,000, but think he might belong under the heading, “Worth It.”