Skip to main content

Blue the robot could help fold clothes or unload your dishes for under $5,000

Project Blue

The idea of having your own assistive robot in the home has been around for at least half a century, promising to usher us into a Jetsons-like future in which we can assign all manner of everyday tasks to a helpful machine. But while such robots have existed in research labs and industry for some time, they’ve not yet made it past our front doors — and the cost is a big reason for this.

That’s something that a team of roboticists at the University of California, Berkeley, have been working to change. They have developed a general-purpose robot, called Blue, able to carry out a range of activities — but also manufacturable at a reasonable cost.

“Blue is a robot designed from the ground-up for the A.I. era,” Pieter Abbeel, project lead, told Digital Trends. “Traditional industrial robots are designed for blind high-speed, sub-millimeter repeatability; they are unsafe around humans, and they tend to cost tens of thousands of dollars — often even hundreds of thousands. Blue sits in a very different part of the design space. [It] is designed to be controlled through visual feedback, to be naturally compliant while still having functional payload, [and] is anticipated to cost only $5,000.”

Although $5,000 is still a large amount of money, it’s far closer to the amount that an average person might have to spend on a labor-saving device. (Consider as a comparison that the Apple II, one of the first personal computers, cost $2,638 when it launched in 1977.)

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Stephen McKinley and David Gealy, two of the other researchers on the project, gave us some indication of the types of tasks they expect Blue to excel at. These are likely to be things like in-home automation, such as unloading a dishwasher or putting away groceries. It could also be used as a physical rehabilitation tool.

The team is currently assembling a batch of 10 robots to be sold to early adopters. “Part of this release process has been gauging interest from the research community to see if people actually want what we have made available,” McKinley said. “[Right now], interest is looking strong. The first users will be researchers who will use this system as a platform for development of A.I. algorithms in labs or at their own homes.”

And in the future? “Our sci-fi future — at least the one that we want to see — involves having A.I.-controlled humanoid robots in the world around us,” McKinley said. “We don’t think that can be solved by any one group in existence today, [but] we think that a low-cost shared platform for research will push the field of robotics forward in the right direction.”

Luke Dormehl
I'm a UK-based tech writer covering Cool Tech at Digital Trends. I've also written for Fast Company, Wired, the Guardian…
4 simple pieces of tech that helped me run my first marathon
Garmin Forerunner 955 Solar displaying pace information.

The fitness world is littered with opportunities to buy tech aimed at enhancing your physical performance. No matter your sport of choice or personal goals, there's a deep rabbit hole you can go down. It'll cost plenty of money, but the gains can be marginal -- and can honestly just be a distraction from what you should actually be focused on. Running is certainly susceptible to this.

A few months ago, I ran my first-ever marathon. It was an incredible accomplishment I had no idea I'd ever be able to reach, and it's now going to be the first of many I run in my lifetime. And despite my deep-rooted history in tech, and the endless opportunities for being baited into gearing myself up with every last product to help me get through the marathon, I went with a rather simple approach.

Read more
This bracelet helps you fall asleep faster and sleep longer

This content was produced in partnership with Apollo Neuroscience.
Have you been struggling to get the recommended seven hours of sleep? It's always frustrating when you get in bed at a reasonable time, then toss and turn for a hours before you actually sleep. The quality of that sleep is important too. If you're waking up multiple times during the night, you're likely not getting the quality REM cycle sleep that truly rejuvenates your body. If traditional remedies like herbal teas and noise machines just aren't helping, maybe it's time to try a modern solution. Enter the Apollo wearable.

Now we understand being a little skeptical. How can a bracelet on your wrist or ankle affect your sleep patterns? Certainly the answer to a better night's sleep can't be so simple. We considered these same things when we first heard of it. We'll dive deeper into the science behind the Apollo wearable, but suffice it to say that many people have experienced deeper, uninterrupted sleep while wearing one.
A non-conventional approach to better sleep

Read more
The 11 best Father’s Day deals that you can get for Sunday
Data from a workout showing on the screen of the Apple Watch Series 8.

Father's Day is fast approaching and there's still time to buy your beloved Dad a sweet new device to show him how much you love him. That's why we've rounded up the ten best Father's Day tech deals going on right now. There's something for most budgets here, including if you're able to spend a lot on your loved one. Read on while we take you through the highlights and remember to order fast so you don't miss out on the big day.
Samsung Galaxy Tab A8 -- $200, was $230

While it's the Plus version of the Samsung Galaxy Tab A8 that features in our look at the best tablets, the standard variety is still worth checking out. Saving your Dad the need to dig out their laptop or squint at a small phone screen, the Samsung Galaxy Tab A8 offers a large 10.5-inch LCD display and all the useful features you would expect. 128GB of storage means plenty of room for all your Dad's favorite apps as well as games too. A long-lasting battery and fast charging save him the need for a power source too often too.

Read more