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CES 2018: Were robots more than a gimmick at the tech show?

CES 2018: Were robots more than a gimmick at the tech show?
From BBC - January 11, 2018

If you have ever wanted a robot to do the vacuuming, then the CES tech show has something for you.

The Aeolus robot is designed to perform a range of household tasks - including mopping floors, rearranging furniture and putting away dishes.

However, like many of the bots showcased in Las Vegas this year, the pressure sometimes got to it.

"Aeolus has had enough," tweeted Signe Brewster, a writer at tech site Wirecutter, after observing the bot stall inexplicably during a demo.

The moment is reminiscent of an even more high profile hiccup that hit LG's smart home helper Cloi during the firm's press conference earlier in the week.

On three separate occasions, Cloi sat there, painfully unresponsive having been prompted to do something helpful - like fetch a recipe for cooking chicken.

"Do it yourself," it seemed to say, through the medium of silence.

And then there was Chinese firm YYD's effort - a bot designed to give you quick assessments of your health.

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BBC Click's Spencer Kelly found it, ironically, in a state of malady - the screen on its face displaying an ugly online error page.

"[Robots] have had a bit of bad press this year because there were a lot of failures," said tech analyst Ben Stanton at Canalys.

He described the user experience built into many of the devices as "fairly shallow" - many supposedly sophisticated bots in fact have very limited functionality and formulaic means of interacting, he said.

Any stumbles were unlikely to be missed thanks to the constant glare of social media, he added.

But some of the more novel ideas kept the idea of a robot fairly simply - like the owl-themed companion Luka, aimed at children. It can read from a database that includes tens of thousands of picture book stories.

However, parents may question whether it might be better in most cases to read to their child themselves.

One firm that managed to attract a bit of positive press coverage was Honda.

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