Domestic Robot Boom Raises Questions ‘Bout Bot Use

Domestic Robot Boom Raises Questions ‘Bout Bot Use

By - Posted Oct 20, 2004

The United Nations recently predicted that the use of domestic robots is set to surge sevenfold by 2007 as more and more consumers get robot-mania, CBSNews.com reports.

According to the stody, over the next half decade consumers will use robots in the home more often to perform such everyday tasks as mowing lawns, vacuuming floors and other such chores.

Robot Wars robotThe report was issued by the U.N. Economic Commission for Europe and the International Federation of Robotics today which said 607,000 automated domestic helpers were in use by the end of 2003, two-thirds of them purchased that year. About 570,000 of them were robot lawnmowers. Sales of vacuum cleaning robots reached 37,000.

According to the U.N.'s annual World Robotics Survey, the surge in home-use robots coincides with record orders for industrial robots.

But what is a robot, who is buying them and what sort of wacky turns will this trend take?

There are now about 21,000 "service robots" in use, performing tasks such as milking cows, handling toxic waste and even assisting in operating theaters. The number is likely to reach 75,000 by 2007, the study said. By the end of 2007, 4.1 million domestic robots should be in use, with sales of window-washing, pool-cleaning robots and robot toys set to increase dramatically along with the increase. 

As  robots become more and more commonplace, the prices for these mechanical friends will go down. For instance, a robot sold in 2003 cost a quarter of what a robot with the same performance cost in 1990, helping the world industrial robot numbers reach at least 1 million by 2007.

robot wars - robotAnd who is buying all these bots?

Well, Japan is by far the most robotized economy, housing with about half the current 800,000 industrial robots. Europe and North America are behind them, with European Union countries in second place with 250,000 robots in operation by the end of last year (mostly in Germany, Italy and France), and around 112,000 robots in service in North America by the end of 2003. The bots are also rising in popularity in richer developing countries like Brazil, China and Mexico.

So what exactly is a “robot” anyways?

The term “robot” applies to any machine that operates automatically to perform tasks in a human-like manner, sometimes even replacing the need for human workers entirely. In most cases, robots move under their own propulsion and do not need to be controlled by a human operator after they have been programmed.

According to their predictions, by the end of the decade  robots will "not only clean our floors, mow our lawns and guard our homes but also assist old and handicapped people with sophisticated interactive equipment, carry out surgery, inspect pipes and sites that are hazardous to people, fight fires and bombs."

robot wars - robotWow. Kinda makes you wonder what other types of robots will be developed in the coming years. Think we’ll ever see the Bathroom Bot, your friendly butt-wiping buddy? Or how about the Bong-Bot, your toke-friendly tech toy? What about the Mr. Breakup-With-Your-Girlfriend Bot, that shows up with flowers and then dumps your loved one for you (there’s a Ms. Breakup-With-Your-Boyfriend one too, she’s just very hard to get on the phone). What about the PornoFriend 5000, the all-porn, all the time robot that stores all your nastys? Oh, wait. That’s called a laptop....

Learn more about robots by watching Robot Wars this Sunday 10/31, 10pm ET / 7pm PT.

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