They Are Coming
I've been following this story about Google's forray into robotics and Andy Rubin leading this group with great interest. As someone in the computer software industry, 30 + years, I have waiting for robotics to catch up. In the past 2 years, between Boston Dynamics, NASA and major universities around the nation, it seems like the process has sped up considerably. Just today I was reading an article about NASA developing a "human-like" robot for the DRC competition. Now, with Google in the mix with all their computing, engineering and scientific resources, it's going to really get interesting. It's just a matter of time.
The manufacturing industry has been switching over to robotics and automated systems for decades. However, moving into the consumer world requires more finesse and complexity when it comes to robot-human interaction. The NASA Robot, named Valkyrie, is a prime example of a "human-friendly" robot, since it is covered in a fabric rather than cold steel or plastic. In this way, it is not repulsive when a human makes incidental contact with the robot. It also has a human-like appearance.
Boston Dynamics has been developing some very interesting robots for DARPA and the military over the past many years. Some of them are postitively frightening. However, their designs appear to me more geared towards robots that can challenge rough terrain and the great outdoors. Regardless, they appear to be one of the true pioneers in robotic ambulation and in robotic autonomy.
After 35 years, C3PO and R2D2 are finally coming. For those of us who have chronic health problems, this may be a Godsent. By the way, there is a charming movie that came out earlier this year, available on demand from providers such as Netflix and Amazon called "Robot and Frank". It's a touching narrative on human-robot relationships.