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CES 2011 Robot Roundup

Whee Me creepy massage robots


Always be weary of a free massage, especially if the masseur is a robot. The Whee Me, by DreamBots is “the first massage robot,” according to its creators. It’s a pretty simple idea, the car-like robot rolls up and down your back, giving you a massage with its wheels as it drives back and forth. It has sensors that prevent it from falling off or losing its grip. Each of its wheels is covered in “patented fingerettes” that “gently stroke and caress providing a delightful sense of bodily pleasure.”

The Whee Me was a popular booth and always full of people, but the guys running the booth had a serious fascination with women using the Whee Me. If you check out the Whee Me site, you’ll see what I mean. While I am definitely a fan of the female form, these guys were kind of creepy.

In the video above, you’ll see our own Molly McHugh give the Whee Me a try. After a minute the rep puts a second massage robot on her back. Surprisingly, they’re able to interact with one another and avoid collision, but the guys started laughing as one of the robots got stuck and started to undress her. It got a little awkward so we had to stop the tape. So yeah, in conclusion, cool product, creepy reps. The Whee Me should debut in the fourth quarter of 2011 and cost about $69.

Robot Suit HAL exoskeleton


We weren’t able to capture video of Robot Suit HAL, by Cyberdyne, but I wish we had. This is a therapeutic exoskeleton (think Exosquad without the guns). The robot is designed to help those who are physically disabled “feel the marvel of walking!”

It’s pretty cool. Though we didn’t see anyone fully suit up, one of the Cyberdyne representatives gave us a quick demonstration. By hooking two wires to a unit on his abdomen, he was able to move the legs of the exoskeleton by moving his own leg or by simply thinking about moving his leg. He explained that when we think about moving our leg, electric signals are sent from the brain to the muscles. When they arrive at the muscles, faint bio-electrical signals appear on the skin. HAL detects these signals and uses them to help the person walk or stand. It can also analyze how much power to give and assist with each step. The lag time is only a fraction of a second. Not bad.

We have no idea how insanely expensive it is to buy a HAL Robot Suit, but you can rent one for about $1,000 a month. Units for the arms, shoulders, and chest are also available.

RoboBuild spiderbot


We cannot recall the name of the company that made this spiderbot, but it was one specializing in do-it-yourself custom robots and was buried deep in the Korean section of the North Hall. The man in the booth was building another robot as we passed by and didn’t care to be disturbed. These guys are full of sensors and run on battery or AC power. They remind me of the extensive collection of build-it-yourself Techno Zoids I had as a kid, except these robots actually work.

iRobot Roomba


What collection of robots would be complete without an appearance by everybody’s favorite vacuuming robot, the Roomba. This smaller, iRobot model, is made to clean bathrooms. It’s small design lets it travel around and behind toilets and tubs. Like all Roombas, you turn it on, press the giant ‘CLEAN’ button, and let it do its thing.

In conclusion

We’d like to reiterate that while we definitely saw some cool bots, the Robotics Zone at CES is a ghetto of its former self. At the very least, we were hoping to see a walking touch tablet computer or a robot that would store and hand us our 3D glasses. Hopefully the world will realize that, while generally useless, it’s important to support robots. If we’re nice to them now, perhaps they’ll be kinder to us when they one day rise up against us.

Oh, and thanks to Molly and Kelly for the great pictures!

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