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7 charming robots at CES 2018

There are some old favorites and some new hits. Which will be the first non-vacuum consumer robot to break out big?

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Topic: Robotics
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1 of 7 Greg Nichols/ZDNet

Sony's Aibo is back

It's Aibo, the lovable robotic dog that's out to destroy your pet's monopoly on your affection! Sony's new-and-improved Aibo, which first debuted in 1999, is a lot like a cuter, more mobile version of tabletop desktop assistants like Amazon's Alexa. In addition to its playful romping, it can control smart devices, respond to queries, and fetch answers from the internet. I'm lucky if I can get my dog to stay off the counter.

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2 of 7 Greg Nichols/ZDNet

R2-D2 is now a real thing thanks to Kuri

It's a $700 robot companion that can surveil your house or brighten your day. Described as "an intelligent robot for the home," Kuri, which debuted last year and is back again at CES in advance of its public release, is equipped with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, an HD camera, facial recognition, microphones, speakers, and touch sensors. It also has a "laser-based sensor array" for obstacle detection, localization, and navigation, as well as sturdy wheels so it can work on different types of flooring. There's speech recognition included, too, but Kuri won't talk back. Instead it makes beeping noises and uses its expressive head and eyes to communicate. Sounds weird, right? But it works, a kind of remedy to the lingering strangeness of talking to a gently accented computer. It's a lot like R2-D2, really. Kuri is built to understand context and surroundings, recognize people, and it can respond to questions with facial expressions, head movements, and sounds.

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3 of 7 Greg Nichols/ZDNet

Somnox wants you to sleep with a robot

You know that creepy dream--the one where your pillow become sentient and tries to snuff you out? No? Just me?

The Somnox pillow comes in peace. In fact, its sole purpose is to help you get a better night sleep. The squishy robot from a Dutch startup of the same name is a training device, of sorts. The core feature is a breathing regulator. When you hug the peanut-shaped plush robot at night, it gently rises and falls. The company claims this will help you subconsciously regulate your own breathing. The Somnox also has soothing noise features, such as music and guided meditation. The Somnox is available for preorder on Indiegogo for 499 Euro.

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4 of 7 Greg Nichols/ZDNet

Has Rosie the robot finally arrived with Aeolus?

It's drawn pretty much universal comparisons to Rosie, the Jetsons' beloved robot servant. It's also garnering rave reviews as a surprise standout in a relatively familiar field of home robots. Aeolus is a working prototype of a mobile robot with a dexterous arm, which can clutch a vacuum and recognize and pick up objects (clean your room Elroy!). That makes it one of the first home bots we've seen with dexterity. It responds to all the usual commands we associate with smaller tabletop personal assistants, and it's got Amazon's Alexa onboard. The prototype from newbie Aeolus Robotics isn't ready for market, but I'll be following this one closely.

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5 of 7 Greg Nichols/ZDNet

Buddy is back, but this friend comes with a hefty price tag

At $1550, Buddy, the personal robot from Blue Frog Robotics, epitomizes a problem facing robotics companies in 2018. Personal robots will eventually be able to do all sorts of stuff. Right now, they can do some stuff pretty well, such as serving as smart assistants, and they can move around in really innovative and cute ways. That's a tough sell when a non-moving Echo Dot costs $50.

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6 of 7 Greg Nichols/ZDNet

CLOi, the robot with stage fright

Oh the perils of live events. LG's CLOi may forever be remembered as the robot that failed spectacularly onstage during the opening hours of CES 2018. The robot, which bears a striking resemblance to Jibo, is supposed to be the ringleader for LG's new lineup of ThinQ smart devices. You talk to CLOi, the robot gets your washing machine and oven in line. At least that's the idea. When LG's VP of marketing David VanderWaal made requests in front of a live audience, the bot got stage fright.

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7 of 7 Greg Nichols/ZDNet

Loomo is Segway's rideable robot

The Loomo toggles between a hoverboard and a two-wheeled robot companion. It can handle grass, inclines, and bumpy road surfaces, and it cruises at an impressive 11 MPH in transportation mode. In robot mode, the Android-powered device can follow users autonomously, recognize faces, take pictures, and interact via gesture and voice command. It's a consumer product, but our guess is that this is a stepping stone. The Loomo Go, Segway's enterprise model, comes with a towable cart, suggesting possible uses for last-mile delivery. The Loomo would also make a great compact security robot ... as long as someone doesn't ride it away.

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