Consumer Robotics Show – TechCrunch

Consumer Robotics Show – TechCrunch

January 6, 2022 Off By administrator

CES has always been a weird show for robotics. That’s not an indictment of the show itself, so much as a comment on the state of robotics generally. It’s true the organization behind the show dropped the name “Consumer Electronics Show” some number of years ago (a fact it continues to be very insistent about in its press materials), but at its heart the show is still very much about consumer technologies.

For robotics, consumer has been an exceedingly difficult nut to crack, for reasons of pricing, scalability and the general unpredictability of operating in uncontrolled environments. In much the same way that the robotic vacuum has long been the main exception to that rule, robotic vacuums have been the one consistent feature at the show over the past decade-plus.

Back in 2020 (the last time TechCrunch attended the show in person), I wrote a piece titled, “Companies take baby steps toward home robots at CES.” Fittingly (for reasons that will be made clear below), the first person I quoted in the piece was Labrador Systems co-founder/CEO Mike Dooley, who told me, “I think there are fewer fake robots this year.”

“Fake” is, obviously, a loaded word in this — and just about any — context. But it’s also not wrong. CES has been — and will continue to be for the foreseeable future — a platform for fake robotics. There are a number of reasons for this, but the main one is simple: robots are an easy way of visualizing sci-fi stuff. Robots, flying cars, space and now the metaverse. If you want a shorthand way of telling the world that your company has its head in the clouds in the most pragmatic way, you wheel out (or walk out) a robot.

They’ve been a common fixture over the years at press conferences from companies with an arguably limited investment in real robotics R&D. And there’s a big, gaping hole between science fiction and that year’s umpteenth robot vacuum. What we’ve started to see is companies begin to fill in that gap. Startups have played an important role in this. But just as important is the role played by automotive companies.

In the lead up to CES, I wrote a 10-year piece reflecting on the biggest trends of CES 2012. One of the things that struck me is the shift the show has made away from things like handsets (Mobile World Congress has taken a lot of wind out of those sails) and toward other industries — mobility in particular. Carmakers have a big role to play in all of this, both in terms of how they use robotics in the manufacturing process and also the role these technologies play in the future of the companies — starting with autonomous driving and moving well beyond.

Image Credits: Hyundai

For those reasons, I’m likely not surprising anyone by saying that the combined Hyundai/Boston Dynamics press conference grabbed the biggest headlines from the robotics world. Tuesday night’s show rode the line in an interesting way. As a company, Boston Dynamics has always taken a pragmatic…

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