1. My household appliances run my life

My household appliances run my life

Will robots take over our lives? Well, as far as my household chores go, they can take over as much as they want. And it seems I am not alone, because in our 10 Hot Consumer Trends for 2015 and Beyond we have a trend showing that the domestic robot most people want is one that does your laundry!

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On the other hand, I do not belong to the third of smartphone owners we talked to who could imagine a robot keeping them company. So obviously there is a limit to how much I am willing to let domestic robots take over at home.

The question is, how do I find that limit?

Or maybe that is not the question.

When I think about my life, I realize machines already run it. However, these machines are neither robots nor smart; they are the dumbest of dumb appliances. I have to buy them lots of electricity (gasoline in some cases!), I have to read manuals thicker than Dostoyevsky’s “Crime And Punishment”, I have to repair them and pay insurance for them, and I have to clean them and move them in and out of storage. And then, to add injury to insult, I have to spend hours upon hours operating them in order to do the things they were designed to do!!

Instead, I need robots smart enough to do more on their own, in order to free up my time.

It would be nice too if a little robotic intelligence enabling appliances to become more multifunctional would make me need fewer than I have today. The sheer number I now have clutters up my home: one for ironing, one for washing clothes and another for drying clothes; one for washing dishes, one for slicing and another for dicing. The list goes on…

So the real question is, what is the limit before dumb appliances run our lives?

I have gone over that limit, and then some, already. How about you? Dumb appliances take up my time and my home space. Having a domestic robot would not be a threat; it would be an opportunity to regain some control!

Written by Michael Björn

Michael Björn is Head of Research at Ericsson ConsumerLab and has a PhD in data modeling from the University of Tsukuba in Japan. One of Michael's keen research interests is the process of assimilation of ICT into everyday consumer life.

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