Will a reliable and general household robot be developed before January 1st, 2030?

The development of general-purpose robots capable of performing household chores has been a long-standing goal in the field of robotics. Such a robot would need to be versatile, adaptable, and capable of handling a wide range of tasks and environments commonly found in American homes. Achieving this level of capability remains a significant challenge.

Will a general household robot capable of performing household chores to a high level of reliability be developed before January 1st, 2030?

Resolution Criteria:

This question will resolve to "YES" if, before January 1st, 2030, a general household robot is developed anywhere in the world and has been publicly and credibly documented to have:

  1. Demonstrated the ability to autonomously navigate and operate within a variety of residential environments, including:

    a. Identifying and avoiding obstacles, such as furniture and pets.
    b. Maneuvering through doorways, hallways, and multi-level spaces.
    c. Adapting to different floor types and surface conditions (e.g., carpet, tile, hardwood).
    d. Recognizing and safely handling fragile objects, such as glassware or delicate appliances.

  2. Exhibited proficiency in performing a comprehensive range of standard household chores, including at least 5 of these complete chores:

    a. Cleaning tasks, such as vacuuming, sweeping, mopping, dusting, and tidying up clutter.
    b. Laundry tasks, including sorting, washing, drying, folding, ironing, and putting away clothes.
    c. Dishwashing tasks, like loading and unloading a dishwasher, or washing, drying, and putting away dishes by hand.
    d. Cooking tasks, such as meal planning, ingredient preparation, cooking, and serving.
    e. Maintaining indoor plants, including watering, pruning, and repotting.
    f. Basic pet care, such as feeding, grooming, and cleaning up after pets.

  3. Shown the ability to adapt to user preferences and instructions, including:

    a. Learning and adjusting to individual household routines and schedules.
    b. Following specific instructions regarding cleaning methods, food preparation, or pet care.
    c. Recognizing and responding to verbal and non-verbal cues from household members.

  4. Demonstrated a high level of reliability and safety while performing these tasks, with:

    a. Consistently high-quality results that meet or exceed the performance of most humans performing the same tasks, within 500% of the average time it takes humans to perform these tasks.
    b. A low rate of errors, accidents, or damages to the home or its contents. More specificially, it is required that, when given full instructions, the robot can fail no more than 5% of the time on average while completing a designated chore. A fail counts as any error that would require human intervention to fix, as otherwise the chore would not be completed to even a minimum level of satisfaction.
    c. The ability to recognize and avoid potentially dangerous situations, such as electrical hazards or fire risks.

The development must be accompanied by independent reviews, testimonials, or high-quality case studies documenting the robot's performance in real-world residential settings, demonstrating its ability to perform tasks consistently and effectively, with a high level of satisfaction among users.

I will use my discretion when resolving this question, possibly in consultation with experts, to ensure that the criteria are met and that the general household robot is indeed capable of performing standard household chores to a high level of reliability.

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bought Ṁ100 YES

I actually think the only bottleneck to this is software, a human operator controlling a robot is already capable of nearly all these tasks. Self driving cars have the same physical mobility as humans driving, it’s just the brain controlling it is dumb and can’t generalize as well as a human so they haven’t taken off yet.

So I find it surprising that this market sits much lower relative to the optimistic AI predictions on this site.

If I was a robot manufacturer, I’d be targeting industry first. The edge cases for a house are harder: manoeuvring around without falling on the kid that’s trying to trip you up. There are thousands of factories and workplaces that can soak up the supply of robots from a company trying to ramp up. For how many years? And the data from these environments might be necessary for generalization to households.

predicts NO
bought Ṁ500 of NO

@bessarabov if it's teleoperated it's hardly autonomous...

predicts YES

@Lorxus It learns by teleoperation, but then can do the learnt task autonomously.

The market has until 2030, that's plenty of time for improvements.

I've come up with a set of rules that describe our reactions to technologies:

Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.

Anything that's invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.

Anything invented after you're thirty-five is against the natural order of things.

- Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt

bought Ṁ251 of NO

It's weird for me to be in the tech pessimist crowd on this site, as I'm in the optimist camp in almost every in-person social group.

The development of the type of robot envisioned in the description would be industry- and life-changing. Unless the cost were truly exorbitant, such a robot would quickly become a staple in every physical industry. The incentive to invent such a robot is immense.

But a positive resolution contemplates incredible advancements in hardware and AI capabilities between now and market close, in a format (robotics implementation) where we historically have seen snail-paced innovation. It seems the closest parallels are Roomba, custom manufacturing robotics, and self-driving cars....and it's not even clear when self-driving cars will be economically viable.

For such an undertaking, investors will likely need proof of blowout financial success for smaller-scale robotics technology before pouring investment capital into more ambitious projects. We're only a bit over 7 years away from market close, and it seems extremely unlikely product cycles can turnover to create "Capable Household Robot" between now and then.

bought Ṁ500 of NO

> It's weird for me to be in the tech pessimist crowd on this site

Most are betting "no" here, and the actual probability seems to be mostly just Catnee, and we all know he is a chaotic cat :3

predicts NO

A robot that had lots of manipulator arms but no locomotion capabilities would still be very useful for some types of household chores, and might be easier and safer to commercialize than a fully mobile robot.

I'm imagining that you have a device that you manually wheel into your kitchen or laundry room, set up your dishes or your laundry or whatever within it's reach, and switch it on, and then it starts grabbing and sorting things within its reach without its base needing to move around much, if at all.

To me, that would be a "reliable and general household robot" and a revolution in household robotics, but it wouldn't meet the criteria in this question due to lack of locomotion.

I feel like the criteria are all reasonable and should count towards the market except one: the ability to navigate multi-level environments. I'm not really convinced that robot manufacturers will put much effort into solving a problem that to me looks fairly complex, so I think the market should resolve to yes even if that specific point is not met.

predicts NO

@NikitaBrancatisano A household robot unable to move itself up/down stairs, etc would be less practical. It just depends on what the author intends -- is the spirit something that roboticists are actually likely to develop this decade, or is the spirit meant to be a very high bar?

To me the other criteria heavily imply that it's meant to be a very high bar.

predicts NO

@Jotto999 Agree. Also - I actually expect that navigating multi-level environments is way easier than say, washing dishes.

Here's Boston Dynamics' CEO talking about it https://youtu.be/cLVdsZ3I5os?t=5692

predicts NO

I'm showcasing this market, as it (i) addresses an object-level question that is important and impacts people's lives, (ii) it is well-written and has specific and measurable resolution criteria, and (iii) it is accessible and interesting to a general audience.

predicts NO

Excellent resolution criteria! Thank you. Can you clarify 'non verbal cues'? Do they include e.g. understanding emotions through facial gestures? Or is it more like understanding when a human points to a certain object?

Some further questions I would have: does it need to be a single robot (as the question is stated, it implies humanoid-esque robot capable of doing all of the tasks alone, e.g. being general), or would a swarm of microrobots that each specialise in a particular task (for example, roomba vacuum cleaners), controled by a central intelligence that adheres to the resolution criteria in points 3. And 4., count?

Further, can you please elaborate on 4.a, what do you mean by that? As stated, this seems a rather overdemanding point, as just demonstrating ability to do the task at all would be rather impressive.

bought Ṁ10 of YES

Thank you for the excellent resolution criteria. You were taking on a big topic, so I have an additional question: what if the qualifying robot is semi-custom (through a company with an “call us for quotes” sales page) and owned by ~5 billionaires? I’m thinking back to the 90s when Bill Gates designed a futuristic luxury house, and could see Musk et al doing the same.

predicts NO

A threshold cost for the robot would be helpful (e.g. >$500k per robot is too prohibitive to count)

predicts YES

I've looked into this a little bit more, and it's notable how Bill's amenities are common now. I suspect a robot meeting the criteria above could be custom built today for $10M, and this is a reminder of how fast technology can diffuse (source GPT 3.5, emphasis mine):

Bill Gates' house, known as Xanadu 2.0, was built in the 1990s and later underwent renovations and updates. It was known for its futuristic and high-tech features for its time. Here are some notable features:

1. Home Automation: Xanadu 2.0 was equipped with an extensive home automation system, allowing residents to control various aspects of the house through touchpads located in each room. This included temperature control, lighting, music, and artwork display.

2. Personalized Settings: The house had the ability to recognize occupants upon entry through wearable pins. These pins would adjust the temperature, lighting, and other settings based on the preferences of the person entering the room.

3. Sensor Systems: The house featured an advanced sensor system that could track a person's location within the house. This allowed for personalized settings to follow occupants as they moved from room to room.

4. Digital Artwork: Xanadu 2.0 had digital screens installed throughout the house, which could display a vast collection of digital artwork. The displays were programmed to showcase various pieces of art according to the preferences of the residents.

5. Advanced Security: The house had state-of-the-art security measures, including an extensive camera system, biometric entry points, and a security control center. The security features were designed to provide a high level of protection and privacy.

It's worth noting that these features were innovative for their time and showcased the cutting-edge technology available in the 1990s and beyond. However, technology has advanced significantly since then, and many of these features may now be more common or even surpassed by modern smart homes.

predicts NO

@MatthewRitter I think that many new novel ideas and research/development are needed in order to produce a general household robot. There isn't an amount of money that can buy you such a robot today.

predicts NO

@YoavTzfati It seems to me. Like Bill Gates' house didn't involve any fundamentally new technology, just technology that hasn't been commoditized yet

bought Ṁ30 of NO

The progress of robotics has been so slow. The last 15 years haven't seen much progress as I understand it. 7 years seems like a very short period of time for robotics to progress this quickly.

@CarsonGale The question of why this is the case is in regard of it being a hardware vs software problem, and I would argue that in big part this is exactly a software problem. There has been no way (and not much point) to iterate the hardware well, if there is no software with which you could check how it is performing. The rapid advance in AI could change this, and quite quickly at that.

bought Ṁ0 of NO

@MpP I live with a roboticist affiliated with top labs in the field. The biggest problems as I've come to understand them are that (1) every robot embodiment is essentially an entirely different problem domain because nothing you learn in one body translates well to another body, (2) you can't use the strategy of "train of it for the equivalent of a billion years" because you could only do that in simulation, and there's a persistent unsolved "sim-to-real" gap, (3) because of the heterogeneity of the problems and robots, there are few canonical datasets or benchmarks for the field to collectively work towards solving.