It wasn't that long ago that putting a robot in your home meant plugging in a Roomba and letting it roam around your floors like a little dust-busting sentry.
But now, thanks to lightning-fast developments in artificial intelligence and machine learning, robots are becoming smarter and far more human. And if the futurists of the world have their way, your next robot helper could be a humanoid that wanders your home on two legs.
In 2022, we saw huge leaps forward in the world of robotics. At Tesla's 2022 AI Day, the company revealed the first two working prototypes of its so-called Tesla Bot: a walking humanoid called Optimus, built with off-the-shelf parts, and a second, more-advanced version of Optimus that the company wants to put into production.
Optimus is built around Tesla's self-driving AI, but instead of being designed to navigate roads and understand traffic lights, the AI has been altered to negotiate the rest of the world and detect everyday objects and humans. Speaking at AI Day, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said the robot was designed to be the kind of in-home helper you might one day buy as a gift for your parents.
"Optimus is designed to be an extremely capable robot made in very high volume -- probably, ultimately, millions of units," Musk said. "And it's expected to cost much less than a car."
It isn't just Tesla putting its AI into a physical form. Google is also reshaping the world of robotics by giving its advanced machine learning brain a robot body. In 2022, Google put its AI technology, called Palm Say-Can, into robots built by Everyday Robots (a company formed out of Google's X initiative). Instead of being programmed with commands like, "If this, then that," the robot brain uses machine learning to understand vague instructions like, "I'm hungry," and then it works out the steps to solve the problem.
Google and Tesla might not be the companies that come to mind when you think of helper robots. But these tech giants are the face of a new frontier in robot design: ultra-intelligent droids designed to seamlessly navigate our world and interact with the humans in it.
In this week's episode of What the Future, we take a close look at the way robotics is shifting, and the companies that are trying to push robots further into our lives, blurring the lines between human and machine. From Optimus to "self-healing" slime robots, and all the weird and wonderful robots in between, check out the video above to see the robots to watch in the year ahead.