So, Where Are My Robot Servants?

Tomorrow’s robots will become true helpers and companions in people’s homes—and here’s what it will take to develop them

11 min read
Illustration: Ben Wiseman
Illustration: Ben Wiseman

Four years ago, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, uploaded a video to YouTube. It featured a demonstration they’d done using a powerful new robot called PR2, a dishwasher-size machine with two hefty arms and six camera eyes on its face. In the demo, PR2 stands before a disorderly pile of small towels. Then, slowly but surely, it stretches its arms, picks up a towel, and neatly folds it, even patting it gently to smooth out the wrinkles. The robot repeats the routine until no more towels are left in the heap.

The researchers were pleased with their work, but they didn’t quite expect what came next: Their video went viral. Within days, hundreds of thousands of people watched it as news of the robot spread through social media and the blogosphere. Reports popped up on newscasts and publications around the world. One Twitter user humorously summed up what the achievement might portend: “I, for one, welcome our towel-folding robot overlords.”

Keep reading...Show less

This article is for IEEE members only. Join IEEE to access our full archive.

Join the world’s largest professional organization devoted to engineering and applied sciences and get access to all of Spectrum’s articles, podcasts, and special reports. Learn more →

If you're already an IEEE member, please sign in to continue reading.

Membership includes:

  • Get unlimited access to IEEE Spectrum content
  • Follow your favorite topics to create a personalized feed of IEEE Spectrum content
  • Save Spectrum articles to read later
  • Network with other technology professionals
  • Establish a professional profile
  • Create a group to share and collaborate on projects
  • Discover IEEE events and activities
  • Join and participate in discussions

Why EVs Aren't a Climate Change Panacea

Unless people change their behaviors, we won't hit 2050 net zero emissions targets

9 min read
Tesla Inc. vehicles in a parking lot after arriving at a port in Yokohama, Japan, on Thursday, Oct. 28, 2022.

Teslas in a parking lot after arriving at a port in Yokohama, Japan.

Toru Hanai/Bloomberg/Getty Images

“Electric cars will not save the climate. It is completely wrong,” Fatih Birol, Executive Director of the International Energy Agency (IEA), has stated.

If Birol were from Maine, he might have simply observed, “You can’t get there from here.”

Keep Reading ↓Show less
{"imageShortcodeIds":[]}

Industrial Functional Safety Training from UL Solutions

Build knowledge and skills to better navigate today's functional safety landscape

3 min read
Man wearing safety helmet, goggles, and overalls stands near industrial equipment

UL Solutions offer personnel certification at both the professional and expert levels in automotive, autonomous vehicles, electronics and semiconductors, machinery, industrial automation, and cybersecurity.

UL Solutions

This is a sponsored article brought to you by UL Solutions.

Invest in building your team’s excellence with functional safety training and certification services from UL Solutions, a global safety science leader.

Our UL Certified Functional Safety Certification programs provide your team opportunities to learn about — or deepen their existing knowledge and skills in — functional safety to achieve professional credentials in this space.

We offer personnel certification at both the professional and expert levels in automotive, autonomous vehicles, electronics and semiconductors, machinery, industrial automation, and cybersecurity.

You can now register for any of the offerings listed below. All our instructor-led, virtual courses provide a deep dive into key functional safety standards.

Keep Reading ↓Show less