I AM ROBOT

My house is getting a robot next year, and before long, yours may too

I’m building a new house, and thanks to the Internet of Things and falling prices of some very advanced technology, it could very well have a robot living in it alongside my family. In a certain way, the building itself could even be a robot.

Everyday technology struggles, like wrestling with the latest Windows update on your PC, or wishing that your TV remote was easier to use, may make you think things like a “smart home” or a robot butler are very remote possibilities. But check out the powers of the Alpha 2, a diminutive android currently seeking funding on Indiegogo.

Billed as the “world’s first humanoid robot for the family,” Alpha 2 is capable of reminding you to take medications on time; telling children stories at bedtime; controlling Wi-Fi-enabled office equipment, smart lights, and locks; and also acting as a tiny security guard. The tiny robot can even recognize faces and voices, accept spoken commands, and advise you on upcoming weather. He’s like a little mobile Siri.

Of course it’s worth remembering that Alpha 2 is a crowdfunding project, and though the team has already achieved its funding goal, it’s possible the project will fail in the future or simply evaporate into thin air. But there are a couple of positive signs: The robot is built similarly to already on-sale machines, and while it’s a “smart” machine, its capabilities certainly seem plausible—this is not IBM Watson-levels of sophistication. Plus the company has already made and sold the simpler Alpha 1S machine. So I’m really quite hopeful that an Alpha 2 will roam the corridors of my future house, greeting guests and reminding my kids to put a coat on because it’s raining outside.

Apart from the android, I know my house will be a robot all by itself. It’s going to have smart locks, smart thermostats, and sensors throughout, plus I’m planning on making every lightbulb and electric socket smart. The plan doesn’t even seem like it’s hugely expensive, because after a slow start, many manufacturers are embracing innovations like Apple’s HomeKit and are selling more and more smart home gadgets. I’m fully expecting to be able to ask Siri to shut my lights off, close the blinds, and turn on the electric heater in the bathroom. Though the house can’t move anywhere, I’d say this still makes it a robot.

A smart home like this could even save me money over time due to electricity and heating savings. By 2020, I suspect smart homes will be fairly common: After all, there’s already research suggesting by 2019, more Americans will have smart fridges than own fitness trackers.

Admittedly it’s the sci-fi fan in me that loves the idea of having a robot like Alpha 2 in the house. But I will settle for Siri-controlled lights. And a Roomba.

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