Dreaming of Droids
Humans have long been fascinated with the idea of robots made in our own image. Isaac Asimov imagined a futuristic world in which humanoid robots were commonplace and, famously, programmed with the Three Laws of Robotics to help — and not harm — their human counterparts. The Jetsons had Rosie. The Skywalkers had C-3PO.
But, when will we be able to have an android assistant in our own homes? We asked our readers to make their own predictions on this matter and got some varied responses.
Half of responders predicted that there will be a humanoid robot in every home, citing several different arguments. Solmaz Sadeghi said, in the Futurism survey, that another 15 to 20 years will likely be necessary to develop the technology and make it affordable. A reader who went by "Oblin" wrote that we already have the technology to make smart houses, so humanoid robotic butlers may be an antiquated idea. In any case, Oblin believed robots of some form would be the norm for wealthy households before 2040.
Some readers were less optimistic about the timeline of this technology. Zack Allen said much more time would need to be invested in the technology to make sure it was safe, and even then, there would likely be push-back against it. He wrote in the survey, "So let's say we perfect the technology where we know they won't blow up in our face or malfunction and choke us in our sleep, we have an entire generation that has grown up watching movies like iRobot and the Terminator where these machines rise up and kill the humans."
Allen also expressed concerns that such robots could become self-aware, in which case we would need to consider whether they deserved the same rights as humans. He predicted that household androids would not be the norm until the 2050s. Peter Macchiarulo, wrote that we will never see a humanoid robot in every home, not only because he believes the human body is "incredulously inefficient," but also because of economic realities.
A number of experts see robotic assistants in our future, including Rob Coneybeer, co-founder of the venture capital firm Shasta Ventures. He believes that this kind of technology will likely be developed to make our lives easier.
"Eventually, you are going to see the humanoid-type of robot, like in Isaac Asimov's book, I, Robot. That's definitely going to happen,"Coneybeer said in an interview with Fortune. "It's still 20 or 25 years out, but I think that type of robot will fit into the framework of what we think of as our traditional living environments."
Coneybeer envisioned such a robot functioning with the Internet of Things we see in development today, and, in fact, such robots are already being made. For example, Kuri is designed to integrate seamlessly with smart houses and is just one of several domestic robots hitting the market. Another anthropomorphized — but not yet humanoid — robot is Aido, which is designed to assist and protect.
Although these examples have a long way to go before they have Rosie's capabilities, society may be more ready for this kind of technology than many would assume. In fact, in 2015, Juniper Research projected that by 2020, the number of American households with robots would increase from one in 25 to one in 10. And, while it is impossible to be sure what the future of domestic robots will be, many signs suggest that you may have one working in your kitchen sometime in the next few decades — if one is not already making you tea right now.