Amazon's delivery drones are starting to take off, with testing currently under way here in the UK.
As technology progresses, robots are becoming more lifelike than ever before. Take Alter, for instance. While singing might be its party trick, the really neat thing about it is that it has electronic sensors that mimic the workings of the human brain.
Such advances inevitably trigger alarm bells among those of us who fear that robots could become too intelligent for their own good.
So are robots really friend or foe? Let’s take a look at some of the different types of robot available to see if we can sort the Datas from the Daleks.
The worker robot
This is the type of robot we’ll see a lot more of in our lives.
The Roomba range of vacuum cleaners from iRobot includes built-in sensors and cameras that enable it to navigate objects while cleaning your floor.
Grillbot is a robot designed to clean barbecues. It moves around the surface on a hot or cold grill powered by three electric motors, as its three brushes remove grease and dirt.
Winbot by Ecovacs is a robot designed for cleaning windows. It can climb vertically without falling off, will detect when it gets too close to the edge and can reach high-up places you’d normally hire a window cleaner for.
But it’s not just home chores that these bots can help with. Recently, workers at a Ford car factory were partnered with robots that could carry out some of the manual tasks themselves. They could even make tea and coffee. Looks like it’s robo’s turn to put the kettle on again…
If you want something a little harder than just a hot beverage, you might want to visit a robotic barman. Harmony of the Seas – the world’s largest cruise ship – has installed one on board, ready to serve up alcoholic concoctions with robotic flair. Cheers!
Verdict: Robotic helpers might sound like the stuff of sci-fi, but they’re here, and they’re only going to get better.
The toy robot
Toy robots have been around for years. If you are a child of the 80s, you might remember Tomy’s Omnibot 2000. But today’s toy robots are much cleverer and more capable than that.
Take the Meccano G15 KS. It’s a four-foot-tall robot that can be controlled by your voice or gestures. But seeing as it takes around five hours to build, it’s not for the impatient.
Maybe you don’t want your robot toys to look like robots. In which case, Hasbro’s range of robotic cats might be for you. Pet its left cheek and it’ll nuzzle your hand. Keep petting and it’ll roll onto its back for a belly rub. Purrfect.
Just don’t let it near robot dog CHiP. This robotic rover is made by WowWee, the company behind the original Robosapien. It recognises its owner, responds to commands, and even plays with its ball. Down boy!
The Tosy DiscoRobo, meanwhile, is an all-singing, all-dancing robot, quite literally. Aimed at younger tech fans, it dances to music and can show off 56 separate moves. For double the fun, pair two robots and watch them dance.
Verdict: Toy robots are a lot of fun, but remember they’re no substitute for a real human playmate.
The military robot
Beyond household chores and children’s toys, robots have much more serious – and controversial – roles to play in the military and in space.
Boston Dynamics (now owned by Google) is the big player in this field. Its creations include Atlas, a two-legged mechanoid that has sensors in its body and legs to help it balance. It stands five foot nine inches tall, and we wouldn’t like to run into it down a dark alley.
Cheetah is meant to replicate its animal namesake. It can run at a phenomenal 29mph, which is faster than any human. And it won’t get tired, either.
Then there’s AlphaDog. It’s a lot slower than Cheetah, but it can carry much heavier loads, which will be handy for transporting equipment in the battlefield. It can even right itself if it falls over.
But Boston Dynamics isn’t the only company making robots for war. iRobot, which is better known for its robot vacuum cleaners, also makes bomb defusal bots like the 710 Kobra.
These bots aren’t limited to Planet Earth, either. During his time in space, British astronaut Tim Peake was able to remote control a rover – nicknamed Bridget after film star Brigitte Bardot – from the International Space Station. Which proves that robots and their uses really are out of this world.
Verdict: This type of robot provokes the most discussion, but military robots do need to exist – they can handle environments unsuitable for humans, be it in theatres of war or in space.