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!
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!
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.