CES 2018: Robot fails onstage during live reveal

A mortifying CES debut is bad news for LG's new robot lineup.
Written by Greg Nichols, Contributing Writer

It's the nightmare scenario for any spokesperson: Your much-hyped product fails in front of a live audience at the industry's biggest showcase.

That's what happened when David VanderWaal, LG's VP of marketing, tried to demo CLOi, LG's new home assistant robot at CES Monday. The robot started off okay, responding to a scheduling command and setting a washing machine. Then disaster struck in the form of silence.

The onstage fail was particularly embarrassing because it was part of a demonstration of LG's ThinQ artificial intelligence technology, which will soon come standard in all of LG's smart home appliances. ThinQ will enable LG gadgets -- fridge, washing machine, stove -- to interface and execute functions autonomously. When you pull up a recipe on your smart fridge, your oven begins preheating, for example.

Voice control is one of the touted benefits of the ThinQ-equipped line, and that's where CLOi comes in. The robot, which bears a striking resemblance to Jibo, is supposed to respond to voice commands and play ringleader for all your LG appliances.

When VanderWaal asked about his schedule, CLOi informed him he was heading to the gym. The robot then set the washing machine so that he could toss his sweaty clothes in afterward. So far so good.

But when VanderWaal followed up by asking a question about the wash/rinse cycle, he was met with silence. "Even robots have bad days," VanderWaal said to break the tension, which was evident in the room.

Next Vanderwaal turned to the fridge, noted that it indicated there was some chicken inside set to expire, and explained that CLOi could offer recipes. He asked for some. Again the robot failed to respond.

You could actually see people shifting in their seats.

Kudos to VanderWaal for plugging on. LG, which is betting big on robots with a new line that includes a shopping cart bot, a hotel porter, and a drinks-serving robot, is probably a little anxious right now.

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