The world of robots is undeniably fascinating and at times humbling. They can explore the deep sea and distant planets, and they are transforming day-to-day life everywhere from factory floors to operating theatres to the battlefield.
But they can also simplify the most annoying household chores. Here are five devices that (we hope) will one day become as mainstream in your average household as toasters, microwaves and irons.
The Personal Trainer
When it comes to losing weight and keeping fit, a little daily encouragement goes a long way. <a href="http://www.pchintl.com/Newsroom/weight-loss-coach.aspx">Meet Autom</a>: she's a personal weight loss coach who happens to be a robot. Like any good coach, Autom gives you daily feedback and monitors your progress. She just speaks in a synthesised voice, and uses a display built into her stomach to track your data. She then gradually adapts her responses to keep you on track. "The more it learns about the individual user, the more it customises the feedback advice to keep the individual motivated," says its creators. "No two conversations with Autom are alike and the more it learns about the individual user, the more it customises the feedback advice to keep the individual motivated." Autom is not in production yet, but creators Cory Kidd and Bill McCord have recently found an investor company and are now looking to be able to manufacture the Autom personal trainer in the next six months for a not-so-shabby $199 (£127, approximately), making her a lot cheaper than your average gym membership.
The Gutter Cleaner
Gutter cleaning is time-consuming and a frankly a bit of a pain, but fortunately iRobot thinks that this is precisely the type of job that should be given to a robot. So they created one. The US home robot creator's latest offering, <a href="http://www.irobot.com/us/robots/home/looj.aspx">iRobot Looj 330</a>, is specifically developed to clean out gutters. "The new four-stage auger breaks apart clogs, then lifts and throws them away from your roof as sweepers and a scraper clear the remaining debris", iRobot explains. You just place it in the gutter and hit the "Auto Clean" button, and then drive it from a wireless remote from the ground and bag the debris as it drops it. OK, so you'll still need a ladder to position your robot, but at least hard work is done by someone else.
The Burger Builder
Like something from the opening sequence of <em>Back to the Future</em>, San Francisco-based robotics start-up, <a href="http://momentummachines.com/">Momentum Machines</a> has created an automated burger machine. The company proudly boasts on its product page: "Our alpha machine replaces all of the hamburger line cooks in a restaurant. It does everything employees can do except better." The machine forms and cooks patties, as well as slicing the toppings to order, assembles the burger and even bags it up for waiting customers. It's also capable of creating 360 burgers an hour. Admittedly it's got a long way to go until it's ready for a domestic kitchen - for a start it'll take up half your kitchen - but just imagine the meaty possibilities at family mealtime...
Love the idea of daily massages, but without the time or money to afford them? Well here's the solution. Maybe. Created by <a href="http://www.wheeme.com/">DreamBots, WheeMe</a> is a palm-sized massage therapist that "massages and caresses" as it rolls across your body, according to the device's official website. Tilt sensor technology allows it to steer on a surface without falling off or losing its grip, according to its creators, and "as it moves, WheeMe's patented fingerettes gently stroke and caress providing a delightful sense of bodily pleasure."
The Window Cleaner
Tackling one of life's trickier chores, <a href="http://www.ecovacs.com/features/Winbot-Winbot 7 Series.html">Ecovac's Winbot Series 7</a> is the second-generation window-cleaning robot and was unveiled at CES 2013. According to its creators, it's easy to use: "Switch the robot on, place it on the window, and press start. It's that easy. Now you can sit back, relax and let Winbot do the work." The robot uses suction to hold onto the glass so it can clean the inside or outside of your window, and it combines reusable pads that wet and dry the glass,and a squeegee to wipe away excess moisture and debris. Winbot will be sold in the US later this year with an expected retail price of between $299 and $399 (from approximately £190 to £290).