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

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.)

blue robot helping home close pieter david steve

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.”

Emerging Tech

NASA is building an inflatable space robot named King Louie

NASA is funding an inflatable robot called King Louie which could travel to the stars in deflated form and then be blown up when and where required. Here is why that's so exciting.
Smart Home

I have seen the future, and it’s full of salad-making robots

Think that robots bussing tables, tossing salads and baking bread is a futuristic concept? It's actually not as far away as you might think. Robots took center stage at a food robotics summit in San Francisco this week, where they showed…

Exclusive: The Surface Hub 2S will revolutionize work. Here’s how it was made

Exclusive interviews with the designers, futurists, and visionaries behind the Surface Hub 2 paint a dramatic picture of how Microsoft thinks collaboration will change your office.

The best iRobot Roomba deals to make cleaning your home a breeze

Keep your home clean without lifting a finger using a robot vacuum cleaner. These nine iRobot Roomba deals not only help you keep your home tidy, but many also come with advanced features such as automatic scheduling and Wi-Fi connectivity.
Emerging Tech

Adidas has created a running shoe that’s made to be remade

Adidas has unveiled the Futurecraft Loop running shoe that it claims is the first performance footwear to be 100% recyclable. The shoe is the latest green initiative by the sportswear company and will go on sale in 2021.
Emerging Tech

How emotion-tracking A.I. will change computing as we know it

Affectiva is just one of the startups working to create emotion-tracking A.I. that can work out how you're feeling. Here's why this could change the face of computing as we know it.
Emerging Tech

Meet the gene-edited bacteria that could make cannabis plants obsolete

Ever wanted to brew cannabis like you brew craft beer? At UC Berkeley, biologists have managed to engineer brewer’s yeast so that it produces the main cannabinoids found in marijuana.
Emerging Tech

Yale scientists restore cellular activity in a pig’s brain hours after its death

In what some may view as a porcine version of Frankenstein, Yale University scientists have restored circulation and cellular activity in a pig’s brain four hours after its death. The study is likely to be used to study brain function
Emerging Tech

Russia’s robot news anchor gives human TV presenters hope

Human news anchors anxious about robots taking their jobs will be feeling reassured this week after the appearance on Russian TV of a news-reading android that clearly needs a bit of work.
Emerging Tech

U.S. police are testing out Batman-style bola guns to catch criminals

U.S. police are taking a page out of Batman’s playbook with a new grappling hook gun, called the BolaWrap, which fires out a kevlar cord able to tie up assailants in the blink of an eye.
Emerging Tech

U.S., U.K. embrace autonomous robot spy subs that can stay at sea for months

Unmanned, autonomous robot spy submarines that are able to stay at sea for months at a time may be coming to both the United States and its ally across the pond, the U.K. Here's what we know so far.
Digital Trends Live

Digital Trends Live: Facebook data security, Ubisoft helps Notre Dame, and more

Join DT Live as we discuss Facebook security issues, Ubisoft's plan to help rebuild Notre Dame, and more. We are also joined by Emily Teteut of Snap the Gap, Jennifer Sendrow of New York Public Radio, and DJ and producer Zeke Thomas.
Emerging Tech

Planet-hunting satellite discovers its first Earth-sized planet

NASA's planet hunting satellite, TESS, has made a new discovery. Last month the satellite discovered its first exoplanet. And now it has achieved another milestone, locating its first Earth-sized planet and a larger sibling planet.
Emerging Tech

Resupply mission carries 7,600 pounds of scientific equipment to ISS

The Cygnus spacecraft has rendezvoused with the International Space Station as part of a months-long resupply mission. The craft will remain docked until July 23, while the crew take in the 7,600 pounds of research equipment it carried.