Welcome home beneficent ‘ bots’

The latest robots in the home to clean, entertain, and surveil your premises.

By Marc Saltzman

While we aren’t living with a “Rosie the Robot” just yet—the high-tech housekeeper who petered around The Jetsons’ family home in that oh so familiar classic cartoon—you might just be surprised to discover who’s ready to join ‘the family.’ 

Ready or not, you’d best get up front and cozy with today’s dedicated devices that are all set to take over the task of keeping your home neat, clean and tidy, mow the lawn, be virtual companions or provide security solutions and be voice enabled assistants.

Hot off the heels of the recent Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, the following is a look at what’s available today—and on the horizon, too.

Eye robot
Perhaps named after the mechanical mutt in The Jetsons, Amazon’s Astro might be best described as an AI pet that offers both convenience and companionship when you’re at home—and peace of mind when you’re not.

Currently available limited quantities (USD $1599.00), Astro can autonomously roll around and surveil your premises, room by room. He acts as a virtual security guard of sorts who will notify you if someone/something unknown is detected, via the Ring Protect app on
your smartphone. Should you wish, you can see what Astro sees at any time via your mobile device. You can even raise Astro’s “periscope” neck up high to see if you, say, left your passport on a top shelf or your watch on the bureau.

Amazon says it’s exploring future Astro features that might include off an intruder through ‘two-way talk’ or calling emergency services to dispatch authorities. Other applications for this cute Wall-E wannabe include bringing drinks to family members (via a small compartment in its back), sending video clips of what’s going on in your home, allowing you to place calls, and checking in on aging loved ones who live alone.

Just roll with it
Similarly, Samsung has updated its cute Ballie home robot with a built-in projector. About the size of a bowling ball, this clever bot will roll around your home, navigate around obstacles, (thanks to lidar technology), and will come right into your room to tell you something you need to know such as what your pets are up to.

The Full HD projector can be used to project movies against the wall or show something to someone you’re chatting with over a video call. Ballie’s battery life is said to top three hours, and I’m told it should be available in 2024.

LG also showed off its loveable AI Agent at this year’s CES as well. It’s a small robot that has two legged wheeled design and a face with big round eyes. Agent evaluates and reports on your home’s temperature, humidity, and air quality too. It can remind you to take your pills, let you know if someone has carelessly left a light on in a specific room, or let you make a hands-free emergency phone calls (say, if you’ve fallen). As you might expect, AI Agent can connect to ThinQ-enabled appliances, like a washer/dryer, notify you when the load is done and report when the oven is preheated and it’s time to put in your meal.

Most interestingly, the ‘bot has both face and voice recognition, so it can distinguish between mum and dad or different members of the family, and may even be able to detect your mood when you walk in the door – based on how you look and sound. Using artificially intelligence it leverages machine learning to understand context and uses a generative AI large-language model, allowing you to chat with it while you’re, say, putting away the dishes. 

No word yet on when this digital dude will be available here in Canada.

Floor vacs and window washers
Robotic vacuum cleaners make up the most popular category of home robots. These circular suckers navigate on their own sucking up dirt, dust, crumbs, pet hair and allergens, too from carpet, tile and wood floors.

iRobot’s Roomba family is probably best known. With its top-of-the-line model the i-Robot j9+ Auto-Fill Robot Vacuum and Mop ($1,399). This latest iteration not only cleans floors by intelligently mapping your floor plans but will now navigate itself back to “home base”—the Clean Base Auto-Fill Dock where it will empty its own dust bin for you. There’s a second vacuum inside the charging base, which is plugged into the wall, disposable bags—which capture and trap 99 percent of pollen and mould allergens—only needs to be removed after up to 60 days.

As its name suggests, it does double duty with a mop that can wash floors, too. Called the “SmartScrub,” it cleans back and forth with consistent pressure, and when it drives itself back to the base, it will also empty the dirty water and refill the liquid for up to 30 days of autonomous cleaning. 

Powered by the iRobot OS, the J9+ is ‘smart’ with the capability of learning from past cleaning missions so it automatically prioritize dirtier rooms and adjusts its settings like suction and scrubbing all on its own. You’ll see a map of your home on the app and after you label each room, you’ll have the ability to instruct the robot to clean specific areas.

Winbot X by Ecovacs ($649), on the other hand, is a window-washing robot that can crawl up your windows to learn them inside and out. Stick the ‘doohickey’ to a window and it’ll initiate three cleaning stages: soaking the glass with a solution-dampened pad, wiping it down with a squeegee, and then drying with a second, clean pad. And Winbot can do more than windows, too, as the 9.64 x 9.64 x 4.29-inch cordless model, it’ll also clean mirrors and glass doors, of any thickness, says the company.

Features include a safety pod and tether, remote control, and rechargeable lithium battery.

Lawn mowers, weed whackers
Speaking of getting outside, the family of Husqvarna Automowers (from $899) can autonomously cut the grass at home. Good news—for the first time in Canada, their latest model doesn’t require a “boundary wire” to be installed around the perimeter of the property, or around flowerbeds, gardens, and other areas you don’t want cut.

Instead, the new Automower 450X EPOS ($7,699) is the first model that relies solely on Husqvarna’s Exact Positioning Operating System. Because it leverages precise GPS connectivity the mower with stay on your grass, and abide by custom stay-out zones. Choose you models, based on desired cutting height, both for properties up to 2.5 acres.

Like its predecessors, the Automower can navigate around obstacles, handle slopes, and when the mower detects its running low on its battery, can scoot back to the base to charge up and continue the job. These residential mowers are quiet, too, at 58 decibels their volume is the same as a conversation, says the company. This means your grass can be cut early in the morning or late at night, without disrupting neighbours.

Hate pulling up weeds?  
From the inventor of the Roomba, the Tertill Weeding Robot ($429) which runs on solar power and whips around your garden up to 200 square feet (about 18.5 metres) to pull up emerging weeds with its string trimmer (similar to a weed whacker) and its specially designed wheels.

No programming or mapping is necessary, as Tertill uses height to tell plants from weeds. Push a button and it’ll attack weeds in 2- to 5-minute intervals, for 1 to 2 hours a day. It ships with plant and row guards to protect small plants.

While not a robot, per se, Flo by Moen Shutoff ($699) might be considered a security system for your home’s water supply. It’s a smart valve that proactively identifies problems before they become a headache—such as if a pipe burst or if a child left a tap running—and then automatically turns off the water supply before notifying you on an app.

Flo is a Wi-Fi connected device that simply detects flow rate, temperature and pressure, and also allows you to better understand your home’s water usage to help reduce costs. (Think teenagers taking excessively long showers or a toilet running in a spare bathroom).

There are no monthly fees, and home insurance providers may give you a discount if you have Flo installed. 

For the past 25 years, Marc Saltzman has been a recognized expert in consumer electronics, business tech, and automotive trends. Marc is a keynote speaker across North America and hosts the weekly Tech It Out podcast. You can follow Marc on X @ marc_saltzman.

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