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FYI: The Rundown

These Are the Droids You Are Looking For

It’s been decades since robots were merely the material of science fiction. Modern manufacturing, medicine, and even agriculture wouldn’t be possible without the bustling population of about 1.1 million industrial robots that were operating worldwide by the end of last year. But the real fun begins when you leave the factory and watch robots at work when real people can’t do the job. Check out these five cool droids.


Genibo QD

For years, Sony’s AIBO was the most advanced toy robot money could buy. But in 2006, Sony discontinued the beloved robo-pup, leaving a vast hole in the upscale robot dog market. That hole has been filled by the Genibo, a robotic hound of Korean descent. Genibo can understand and respond to more than 100 voice commands—including the usual “sit” and the unusual “headstand.”



Paro Therapeutic Robot

Paro Therapeutic Robot

You won’t find another robot like Paro, which at first glance looks like a fluffy and unbearably cute stuffed baby seal. But behind the long eyelashes you’ll discover an incredibly sophisticated robot that has been designed exclusively for therapeutic use. Paro provides mental stimulation and comfort and reduces the stress of its owner, reacting to stimuli like petting, hugs, and being called.




Kyodo LawnBott LB1500 SpyderEVO

The LawnBott LB1500 is a scary-looking, 24-pound ’bot on four big wheels that boasts both a spinning blade and a robot brain to guide it. The LawnBott can run for up to three hours at a time on a single charge and is fully autonomous, using perimeter wire you bury to know the boundaries of your lawn. A powerful motor lets it climb hills up to 27 degrees in steepness, chopping grass all the way in virtual silence.



Pleo rb

Complete with lifelike motion, a personality, and a fairly down-to-earth price tag, the original Pleo (launched in 2007) looked to be a hit. Not so: complaints of awful battery life and limited features were rampant. Now Pleo is back—“reborn” with the Pleo rb. Pleo rb can learn voice commands and is beset by the occasional faux illness—which has to be cured with special “food” when he “sleeps.”



iRobot Scooba 230

iRobot’s latest floor scrubber is finally compact enough to work in the bathroom and get behind the toilet (finally, someone’s cleaning back there). The 3-pound cylinder is just 6.5 inches across and 3.5 inches tall, and he can scoot around a small room in about 20 minutes, choosing from dozens of robo-algorithms to figure out how best to cover every square inch of floor.

Christopher Null


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