CES 2020 showcases the quirkier side of robotics

Formerly known as the Consumer Electronics Show, CES remains one of the biggest consumer electronics trade shows in the world. From flying surfboards to smart kitty trays, the expo has a reputation for showcasing the weird and wonderful, as well as the TVs, smartphones and other everyday gadgets many of us will be using over the coming year.

The event has also showcased a number of robotic automation systems and this year has been no exception. CES 2020 has featured a number of different robots, including some decidedly quirky ones.

Chinese company PuduTech, for example, had two different cobots on display, both of which are designed to work in busy restaurants. HolaBot is a dish-collecting robot with an advanced task scheduling system, but BellaBot grabbed most of the headlines. The robotic waiter features a screen with cat-like animations and can also interact with customers in various ways.

It will sometimes meow at the table to remind people to pick up their food and it will also react positively when its ‘ear’ is petted or scratched. “The owner’s hand is so warm,” it will say but, as with a regular cat, it can be temperamental. It won’t give a warning scratch but if you linger too long it will change its expression to a less friendly one.

“It gets mad to remind you not to interrupt its job,” the company behind BellaBot explained.

Elsewhere, UBTech debuted a Walker model that can run through a series of yoga and tai-chi poses, as well as carrying out a range of basic household tasks. The yoga aspect might be an eye-catching gimmick but also serve to demonstrate the balance, precision and range of motion that modern commercial robots can achieve.

And then there was RollBot, developed via Proctor & Gamble’s loo roll business Charmin. Designed to respond to a very specific kind of emergency, the Bluetooth-controlled device can deliver toilet rolls to the bathroom when called for. RollBot is a demo device only, with no current plans for commercial production, but does help to demonstrate the way in which robots and automation will play an increasingly ubiquitous role in our homes and workplaces alike.

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