The friendly kind, not the sentient ones that want to overthrow humanity.
If you’ve caught up on Westworld or Black Mirror’s newest seasons, you’ve probably also considered how you can become the owner (and master) of your very own robot. Maybe you already own a Roomba and are looking to up your ante when it comes to humanoid relationships beyond vacuuming and mopping. Maybe you are very rich and feel that you’ve already purchased all there is to buy in the world, and you’re just waiting for inventors to create fun new toys for you to spend your coins on. Or maybe you’re like me, and you think that if you starred in Her you wouldn’t fuck it up like Joaquin Phoenix did.
So, before the robots get sentient and we all start going on unplanned road trips locked inside our driverless cars, here are some docile, obedient bots that you can actually buy and potentially befriend.
Kirobo is the newest non-car innovation from Toyota. Though it’s currently only available in Japan, this little guy hopes to provide drivers with conversation to keep them awake on the road and feeling less lonely while in their homes. The manufacturers have dubbed Kirobo a “synthetic baby,” which sounds very creepy. Even at $392, plus additional cloud services at monthly fees, Kirobo still costs less than a very human, non-synthetic baby, and it will never projectile vomit on you.
Based on the video, Aido is kind of like a sentient bowling pin that watches you sleep. Aido is cheaper than Buddy ($599) and also meets you a little more at eye level while it follows you around. In addition to its SmartHome technologies and a bevy of features similar to Buddy’s, it has the ability to project videos and web content on any wall. Don’t be fooled by the weird commercials: Aido was voted Game Changer of 2016 by T3 magazine. More info can be found on its IndieGogo page.
Winbot is Roomba’s window-cleaning cousin. Using suction technology, this bot will clean your framed windows—both outside and in. The only catch: It has to be, as I said, a framed window. None of that floor-to-ceiling BS for Winbot. It ain’t cleaning your loft, Lena Dunham! It ain’t! Winbot is available on Amazon for $199.99.
Buddy aims to be a family companion that can interact differently with each individual member of your family. Buddy can remember people, personalities, and situations, and understand how best to “improve your life.” For between $699 and $999, Buddy acts as a mobile source of entertainment, personal assistantship, and home security. Buddy also seems to have modeled its physique off of BB-8.
CHiP the Robotic Dog
Last year, Sony discontinued many parts for its Aibo robotic dog. The Zoomer company attempted to step in with its models for robotic cats, dogs, and puppies. But, the AI just wasn’t as advanced. CHiP attempts to blend the two technologies—the advanced responses of Aibo with the playfulness of Zoomer. CHiP comes with a SmartBand to communicate with your dog, an app, a Smartball for fetch, and an adaptive personality that changes over time. CHiP is $189 on Amazon.
Of course this bot comes from Luxembourg. There’s something very Luxembourgian about a tiny bear robot that serves as a universal remote, home security, temperature regulator, and media controller. BearBot also has “spontaneous behaviors,” like sneezing and yawning. For about $80, you can pre-order this humanoid teddy bear on its IndieGogo site and it will arrive in Aug. 2017.
Foldimate lacks the ability to respond to voice commands and facial expressions, but any being that helps with laundry is a friend of mine. Starting in 2017, you can order a $700 Foldimate that will neatly fold, treat, and de-wrinkle your clothes two times faster than you ever could. Will it ruin your clothes? There’s less than a 1 percent chance.
Tapia is the egg-shaped AI designed by MJI in Japan that can do everything from turning on your coffee maker to reminding you to call your mom. She can engage in conversation, express a wide range of emotions with her large eyes, monitor security for your home, and serve as a media device. Tapia is being unveiled to Early Bird buyers on its IndieGogo this month, for $580.
Claire Downs is a writer and comedian based out of Los Angeles. She's written for Nickelodeon, VH1, Funny or Die, and Hello Giggles. You can follow her on Twitter @clairecdowns. She prefers Indica to Sativa, in case you're wondering.