[This is the 4th of 6 insights we gathered from the Consumer Electronics Show this year at Las Vegas, Nevada, United States]
At CES 2014, Intel announced that within the next decade, microprocessors will become emotionally smarter than human beings.
"The human brain has 100 billion neurons, it's a complicated machine. But in 12 years we will have more transistors in our chips than we have neurons in our brain," said Intel Senior Vice President, Mooly Eden.
"We will finally remove the fiction from the science fiction," he claimed.
The objective is to enable a more natural way for us to communicate with machines, through voice. If we own an iPhone with Siri installed, some of us may have already sample a piece of this vision that Intel has mapped through its RealSense brand. Coupled with machine learning abilities driven by increasingly powerful processors, this could only mean that robots and computing devices will communicate more efficiently in time.
"There are like 3-4 times more household robots being exhibited this year than last. I can't see they look all that different this year, but the sheer number makes me think we're close to an inflection point with this technology," said Jason Harrison, CIO of Maxus Global.
As with all new technology, small steps need to be taken for the general public to get used to the idea of eventually having a Jetsons-style robot house maid. A few years ago, the Roomba autonomous robotic vacuum cleaners was a trailblazer in this field.
At CES, iRobot announced its newest iteration, the Scooba, which cleans surfaces twice and retails for US$599. If we're to combine telepresence robots with the Scooba, we could essentially make a human controlled robotic cleaner, which was probably iRobot’s intention when they had its Ava prototype travelling around the showfloor.
But smarter home technologies aren’t just about robots. It also includes intelligent appliances that are able to communicate with systems.
As Ellie Birch, Maxus Global Capabilities Lead who was at her first CES this year remarked, "Samsung blew my mind with its "smart home" with all the appliances being able to talk to each other and controlled remotely. The technology is definitely there, but I'm not sure it's been taken far enough yet. This is an amazing opportunity for technology developers or brands to truly get involved in people's lives and make technology intuitive."
At TechCrunch Magazine’s Hardware Battlefield, startup Cube Sensors won 1st prize, bringing home US$50K. Its product: palm sized air monitors packed with 7 different sensors measuring air quality, temperature, humidity, noise, light, weather pressure, and motion.
The runner-up for the competition is Owlet, a sock that monitors infant heart rate, oxygen levels, skin temperature and even provides rollover alerts during sleep, giving parents a peace of mind. The product is currently raising money through pre-orders from its website to bring the product into mass production.
Days after CES 2014, Google announced the acquisition of Nest Labs (know for its smart thermostat, which learns its user’s habit and adjust the temperature accordingly) for US$3.2b, adding to its multiple acquisition of companies working on robotics. Forbes reported, “Through this acquisition, Google will gain a firm footing in the growing market of web-connected household appliances. Moreover, this deal can also strengthen Google’s footprint in an urban household.”
Both smart appliances and robots represent the future of our homes imagined by popular 1960s animation, The Jetsons. Just like in the cartoon timeline of 2062 where the Jestsons has a robotic housemaid, Rosie, doing the family’s chores, the promise to achieve something similar by 2062 seems plausible from the technology presented so far.
But Harrison would add, "There is massive potential in the application of robotics and drone technology to impact everyday life, if people can get over the general creepiness of a robot that looks almost human or unmanned buzzing objects flying through the night sky."