7 Favorite Family Robots in Pop Culture History

Notable robots who were part of a family.

We’re reaching a point when science fiction is quickly turning into real life. Technology is becoming an ever-increasing presence in our lives, and said technology is becoming ever more sophisticated and useful.

In recent years, the robotics field has made enormous strides: iRobot has recently sold off its defense and security division to focus on the growing home market for Robotics, and Alphabet’s Boston Dynamics has been making the rounds of the internet with their Atlas Robot. Robots are in the home, and will be here to stay.
This is something that science fiction has been predicting for as long as it’s been around. From the genre’s earliest robots, such as Tik Tok from the world of Oz, to BB-8 from Star Wars: The Force Awakens, we’ve been imagining facsimile individuals that exist alongside people.
Over the course of that history, we’ve imagined how they’ll interact with families. Here’s a small handful of notable robots who were part of a family:

1 – Andrew Martin, The Bicentennial Man, Isaac Asimov

The Bicentennial ManIgnore the Robin Williams film: Isaac Asimov’s brilliant novella The Bicentennial Man (which the film is loosely based on), charts the life of an NDR robot after it was purchased by the Martin family. They named him Andrew, and over two centuries, he transitions from being a robot to a person.
Andrew’s story is an interesting one, because it’s the epitome of how we anthropomorphize objects such as robots, imagining them to be like humans. Andrew starts its life as a machine, and ends his life declared a human, right before he dies.
The Bicentennial Man is at its heart, the yearning of a robot to become part of a family, first as part of the Martins, but then, a larger one: the larger human family.

2 – | CHAPPiE

chappie_2015_movie-wide
In Neill Blomkamp’s 2015 film CHAPPiE, a robotics scientist working in South Africa conducts an unauthorized experiment while working for a defense contractor. He creates true artificial intelligence, placed in the body of a discarded Scout robot.
The robot is kidnapped and activated, and is awakened with the intellect of a child. “Raised” in a quasi-family environment of criminals, it displays an unusual curiosity and is disturbed by the darker realities and complex morals of its surroundings.
Chappie is an interesting robot, and its journey from innocent to adult mirrors that of a child growing up and coming to terms with the world we live in.

3 | David, A.I. Artificial Intelligence / Supertoys Last All Summer Long

AI
This is another example of a point where the book is better than the film, but each iteration of David is an interesting one. At their core, they are about the same thing: the love of a child for its mother. In this case, the child is a robot.
In the film, David has been brought in to the family after a tragic accident, while in the book, he is the only option for a family in an overcrowded world. In each, David is replaced by a real child.
In many ways, this once again goes towards the concept of anthropomorphizing an object explicitly designed to do just that: in this case, it is discarded once it’s no longer needed. Good for the family, but with devastating consequences for the robot, which still yearns for its mother.

4 | Helen O’Loy

Helen O’Loy
Lester del Rey’s story of a robot falling in love with a man first appeared in Astounding Science Fiction’s December 1938 edition. It’s an extremely problematic story that carries with it some outdated gender roles, but it does prove to be an interesting example of robots in families.
In the story, two men modify a household robot, and it begins to develop emotions. They name it Helen of Alloy – Helen O’Loy, and it slowly begins to appear more and more human. On one hand, it’s a story of a man designing an overly idealized wife, built to worship its owner/lover.
While the story is problematic, it serves as a very good warning for how robots can be utilized, and how gender roles can be applied to artificial humans. The results can reveal some harmful attitudes that can persist into familial units, where they can have devastating consequences.

5 | Marco and Jax, The Lifecycle of Software Objects, Ted Chiang

The Lifecycle of Software ObjectsThe cover flap of Ted Chiang’s brilliant novella The Lifecycle of Software Objects cites Alan Turing, who muses that the best way to raise an artificial intelligence might be to raise one as though it were a child, from the first building blocks of intelligence all the way to adulthood.
This is a complicated, dark story, one that follows a designed named Ava as she helps her company, Blue Gamma, create an AI. Jax and Marco are child-like digients (robots with AIs), and over the course of two decades, their personalities grow, based on their environments.
Raising a child of my own, there’s a lot of parallels here as Jax and Marco grow and develop complicated personalities, and a new desire for independence and even a loss of innocence. It’s an interesting, and difficult, but ultimately rewarding read that takes on new meaning as a parent.

6 | Robbie, “Robbie,” Isaac Asimov

I-robotThe lead story in Asimov’s famous collection of robot stories, I, Robot, “Robbie” is a story about technophobia and how children can sometimes be far more accepting of the world than adults.
In this story, the Weston family owns an RB series robot nicknamed Robbie. Their daughter, Gloria, grows firmly attached to the robot, and the family sends it away to the city, away from their daughter. Gloria is distraught, and when they take a trip to the city, Gloria is almost killed by a car, saved only by Robbie, who happens to be nearby.
Children anthropomorphize objects far more easily than adults will, something I’ve noticed in our own home, with our Roomba. Even as robots are literally inhuman, we, children and parents alike, will include them in our families, imagining a personality or traits upon them.

7 | Rosie, The Jetsons

This list would not be complete without Rosie, the housekeeping robot for the Jetsons. The rosie jetsonrobot is designed for housework, keeping their futuristic house clean, and acting as a quasi-mother figure to the family as a whole.
Rosie has become a go-to catch all for housekeeping robots. Our Roomba? We totally named it Rosie. But it’s a character that also represents a bygone era where wealthy families often kept a housekeeper, someone who essentially became a member of the family in the long term.
If humanoid robots ever become the norm and widespread in homes, it shouldn’t be surprising if families go out of their way to include them as part of the family – either by dressing them in clothes, bestowing them with a name, or even altering their programming to fit in.

Your Kids’ Robotic Future: What You Need to Know

Our kids’ robotic future will be an interesting one, but it won’t be the perfect, utopian vision that classic science fiction stories have promised.

The robots are coming. This isn’t a warning from the tagline on a movie poster: in the coming years, robots and robotic systems will be entering the home like we’ve never seen them before, and they have the potential to radically change how we live our lives around the home.

There’s a decent chance that you or someone you know already has a robot in their home. iRobot first launched their signature robot, the Roomba, in 2002, and since then, they’ve sold more than ten million units. You might have a Nest, a smart thermostat designed to regulate the temperature in the house while allowing you to monitor and control everything remotely.

Consumer’s options to connect various parts of their homes will only grow as technology becomes more sophisticated. Already, we’re seeing the early stages of true smart homes, where appliances are connected and speak to one another for energy efficiency purposes, or simply ease of use.

Whirlpool offers a smart washer and dryer system, with an app that will allow you to control it remotely from a smartphone. Samsung offers the SmartThings home monitoring kit, which enables you to stay connected to various features in your home – from security to lighting – while away. And General Electric offers a suite of appliances with networking capability so that you can turn on your stove with an app, get reminders from your refrigerator when the door is left open, or remotely check on the status of your dishwasher.

connected-water-heaters

The convenience factor is a major driving force for each company. Around 68% of Americans own a smart phone, which is an unprecedented technological advance for society, and it allows for an unparalleled level of access to computing power and to one’s devices.

As the cost of smart phones and tablets drops in the coming years, that number is only going to increase, and connected technologies and true robotic homes will become a reality.

What will that look like?

There are already some autonomous machines existing in the house. Cleaning robots, like the aforementioned Roomba, and its competitors complete the relatively basic task of picking up dirt and dust from around the house.

Other tasks are a bit more difficult to accomplish, simply because the programming and hardware haven’t come down in price to the point where it’s practical on a mass level. Folding clothes is still a challenging task.

Similarly complex tasks that we take for granted, such as distinguishing between objects, sorting, moving to specific locations, and the like, are difficult for robots to perform. Multifunctional robotic home aides like Rosie from “The Jetsons,” or Andrew from “Bicentennial Man,” are an impractical reality at this point, but it’s possible that we will see humanoid robots coexisting alongside us at home.

Companion robotics are a growing field for consumers.

softbank-pepper-bot

Japanese company Softbank created Pepper, and sold out within a minute of offering it for sale. Blue Frog’s robot Buddy is another cheerful looking robot designed to help with “communications, home security, edutainment and even elder care.”

Another company, MJI Robotics, debuted a robot that emotes through a pair of eyes on a small screen. There have been other companion robots over the years – Sony’s Aibo dog robot was incredibly popular, but has since been discontinued and unsupported, much to the distress of owners.

Robotics will play a major part in how we care for the elderly.

Elder care will likely be a major driver of growth for companion robotics. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, in 2013, 14.1% of the American population – about 45 million people –  was age 65 or older.

By 2060, that number will more than double to 98 million people. This will require major changes in how we care for and live with the elderly, and robotics will likely play a major part. We’re already seeing robots used in hospitals to carry out basic tasks.

As they become more sophisticated, (and more importantly, cheaper) home care robotics have a lot of potential: they can help with decision making, provide reminders for medications and food, or call for help if needed. (One of the more realistic films depicting this future is Jake Schreir’s movie “Robot and Frank.”)

Robotics will help parents with young children.

Developers will likely find many uses for any device that will take some of the routine labor out of housekeeping. Just recently, iRobot announced that it was selling off its military division to focus on the home market, no doubt to focus on what will likely be a more lucrative and friendly market.

As robots enter our homes, we’ll have to find new ways to live with them. Anthropomorphizing machines is almost a given – we name our cars and our Roombas already, and a generation of children growing up with companions will face completely new ways of looking at the world and their social arrangements.

All of these advances will connect to your house in some way, theoretically working in some sort of synchronous harmony. It’s entirely possible that a house will have a “brain” of its own that monitors and communicates with the litany of connected devices within it.

Naturally, security concerns will arise as our homes become more connected, and these will need to be addressed by both manufacturers and consumers. Any kind of network can be vulnerable to hackers. Homes will contain an enormous amount of personal information and habits – information that can easily be misused in the wrong hands.

Our future in robotics will be an interesting one, but it won’t be the perfect, utopian vision that classic science fiction stories have promised.

Consumers share part of the responsibility.

In 2013, 300,000 home internet routers were compromised, mainly because people didn’t change the default password on the device. As computing power increases, passwords will become easier to crack, and individuals will need to learn how to use passwords effectively. Basic security education is something that will need to be included at various educational levels.

On the other hand, manufacturers will need to step up their game.

Manufacturing supply chains will need to be secured, so that malicious codes and chips can’t be installed from the start, and basic security measures will need to be implemented for all devices moving forward: washers, dryers, computers, light bulbs, cars, and so forth.

Our future in robotics will be an interesting one, but it won’t be the perfect, utopian vision that classic science fiction stories have promised. It’ll be full of cool gadgets and maybe even some new friends, but it’ll be complicated and frustrating at the same time.

MORE READING

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Milo the Robot Helps Kids With Autism Spectrum Disorder

Milo the humanoid robot was developed to help kids with Autism Spectrum Disorder engage, learn and navigate life.

Developed by the Dallas start-up, Robokind Robots, Milo the robot was created to help meet the challenges faced by children with Autism Spectrum Disorder; the fastest growing developmental disorder in the U.S.

Robokind specializes in advanced social robotics. The Robots4Autism arm of the company focuses on building and improving the “expressive, humanoid” robot Milo, as well as providing Milo-based curriculum and research.

Milo keeps children with ASD engaged in many ways, most obviously, because he’s a robot. He also has an expressive face, stays calm, and is encouraging.

Robokind recently beat out 600 other start-ups in the North American Startup Contest, garnering the attention of several large angel investors.

The cost of Milo’s first iteration, the Zeno R50, was $15K per unit. Milo will be more widely available to schools and families at a significantly lower cost.

Source: Mic, Robokind

 

5 Winter Links to Share With Your Curious Kids

Share quick links with your kids curated by Today Box. Today Box curates fun, educational videos and media for curious kids, parents and educators.

View past Internet Field Trips here.


 

Week of January 18, 2016

 

What happens when you blow soap bubbles when it’s -15 outside?

 

 

Carve up some deep pow with this Lego freeskier!

 

 

Shred down the mountain like a girl in Jackson Hole.

 

Photo credit: Sonja Hinrichsen

 

View spectacular snow drawings by artist Sonja Hinrichsen.

 

Yuki-taro eats snow and poops out snow bricks. Snow fort, anyone?

 

View past Internet Field Trips here.
View over 1,100 amazing kid-friendly posts on Today Box.

Robots, Jobs, and Daughters

In a new report out today, the World Economic Forum estimates that by 2020, 5 million jobs will be replaced by robots. The majority of those jobs belong to women.

The robots are coming for us. Specifically, for our jobs.

According to the World Economic Forum’s new report The Future of Jobs, it’s estimated that by 2020, robots could replace 5 million jobs currently held by humans. And while it’s widely understood that robots have already replaced service industry and factory jobs, robots will increasingly replace workers in white-collar positions.

Who loses the most? Women. Why? Tech Insider summarizes:

[su_quote]Firstly, it says that most of the job losses to technology are in female-dominant roles, such as administration. Secondly, WEF says that while the creation of 2.1 million new jobs will partially offset some of the job losses, the fact that most of these roles will be in specialized areas such as computing, maths, architecture, and engineering and that women have “low participation in high growth skills” then the new positions are less likely to be filled by females.[/su_quote]

That women are less likely to be working in the areas where the introduction and adoption of new robot technology will create jobs is of particular note for parents of daughters.

How do we keep our daughters from getting kicked out of science? Inspiring role models help.

Once stellar example of young women in science is Sabrina Pasterski, also known as PhysicsGirl. Heralded as the new Einstein, and featured in this Ozy article, Pasterski had built and flown her own single engine airplane by the age of 14.

As an MIT graduate and Harvard PhD candidate, Pasterski’s research focus is to better understand quantum gravity within the context of quantum physics.

While that’s big mouthful for the lay-person, the point is: inspirational role models like PhysicsGirl will help keep our daughters in science, and in paying jobs.

To understand more about this, keep reading:

The Guardian: Women to Lose Out in Jobs Revolution

Bloomberg: Rise of the Robots

Tech2: Youngsters Scared of Losing Future Jobs to Robots

Source: WEF, The Guardian, Bloomberg, Ozy, Tech Insider

 

 

5 links to share with your curious kids (week of 6/6/15)

Share awesome, fun links with your kids curated by Today Box. Today Box curates fun and educational facts, videos, photos and jokes for curious kids, parents and educators.

View past Internet Field Trips here.

Week of June 6, 2015

beam

Observe Chris Burden’s anti-architecture performance called “Beam Drop” in Brazil.

space return

Peek through the window of a rocket ship returning back to Earth!

Quack Fat

Enjoy this retro stop motion animation music video called “Quack Fat” by Opiuo.

penguin mirror

It’s an interactive penguin mirror made from 450 robotic penguins. Because…why not?

himalayas

Explore the Himalayas and Mt. Everest from a helicopter flying over 20,000 feet!

View past Internet Field Trips here.

View over 1,000 amazing kid-friendly posts on Today Box.