I turned 10 in 1990. I wanted a home robot so badly. I got a book on interlibrary loan that was a survey of the personal robots available at the time; this would’ve been in the late 80s or early 90s. I would just sit and dream about what it would be like.
What do 9 year olds dream about as the future of personal technology these days? VR?
I’m nearly ten years younger than you, & grew up on those same library books from the mid-80s about personal robots. (They all seem to have disappeared from my local library, within the past 15 years!)
I’m not sure if anything is actually progressing, these days, in a way that captures the imagination of kids. Maybe neural nets? But, on the other hand, it’s easy to be fooled by the illusion of progress if you don’t have enough knowledge of the history of the subject. When I was a wee lad, I thought even TOPO was cool and technically advanced!
A minor correction that didn’t make it: the RB5X is not still manufactured by the same company (though they continued doing so for about 20 years), but instead a different organization that bought the name along with the remaining stock of parts.
I remember they had all these shows in the 90’s talking about how everything was going to be like the Jetsons by year 2000. We’d have personal robots, flying cars, and so on. Instead, they spent $150 billion rewriting COBOL since the year 2000’s computers can’t keep track of time properly. I was so let down.
The TL;DR of the article: all personal robots in the 80s were a major letdown except the one that was least successful, because it cost as much as a new car & didn’t have any arms.
I think home robots are kind of a letdown now, in the sense that Roombas that you can actually go out and buy today aren’t good enough at navigating the floor to be better at vacuuming than me with a canister vac, 3D printers are a niche hobbyist thing, and Alexa is so privacy-invasive I refuse to use it out of principle.
Of course, half the things that people imagined home robots would do in the 80s - basically all the things that you can do without the device physically moving - have been accomplished by personal computers and smartphones, to wild success. I can use my phone and ubiquitous wireless internet connection to play music or read encyclopedias or shitpost about cryptocurrencies, all of which I’m sure would blow the minds of the 80s people typing things into the keyboard attached to their 80s home robot.
But my phone and computer don’t move on their own so, I wouldn’t call them robots.
When you follow Google Maps directions or steer to high ranked restaurants or attend meetings in your calendar they do move on their volition. Kind of.
Heh, yeah. Exactly in that restricted sense of “move around” that you say. That’s the sense of “move around” that turned out to be useful.