Where’s Our Rosie? Why We Don’t Have Domestic Robots Yet

What it will take to develop a multitasking, humanoid domestic robot—and whether we even really need one.

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Hanna-Barbera / Everett Collection

Jane Jetson & Rosey the Robot

The Future?

We may never have the equivalent of Rosie the Robot in our lives, both because such a robot would be incredibly complicated and expensive and because, quite frankly, we might have no need for it.

“The idea that a humanoid robot with arms would push a vacuum cleaner is an image that has set many expectations and, in some ways, has set back the industry,” says Colin Angle, CEO of iRobot. The man knows a thing or two about robots, considering the Roomba has sold more than 6 million units worldwide, making it by far the most widely adopted domestic robot ever invented.

“I get frustrated with the ‘great demo’ that has no economic value,” he says. “I am a vigorous proponent and champion of growing the robot industry. What we need to do is solve problems people are willing to pay for at a price point lower than what they were initially willing to pay. And that’s actually really, really hard.”

Robots like ASIMO and Boston Dynamics’ PETMAN look really cool but, honestly, who really needs something like that in their home? A $300 disc that can vacuum your floor by itself is pretty amazing when you stop and think about it.

The future is much more likely to be a bunch of simple, inexpensive robots performing different household tasks than a single, wisecracking robot maid that will do everything. It might not be Rosie, but look at it this way–at least you won’t have to do any housework.

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