Buddy: The Companion Robot
Buddy is a bit of a Renaissance android in that it has many talents. It can patrol your home, play educational games with kids, read recipes aloud, and even help out with elder care. Just need a rundown of your to-do list? Buddy's on it. Built by Paris-based Blue Frog Robotics, the petite bot is a social butterfly that can recognize faces, and it's so expressive that its teeth will chatter if it's cold.
Starship: The Self-Driving Shipment Bot
This little messenger could soon be chugging along a sidewalk near you, bringing whatever it is your heart desires, be it dinner or clean laundry. Skype cofounders Ahti Heinla and Janus Friis launched Starship Technologies a couple of years ago, and the company is now testing delivery robots across dozens of cities. Each courier operates in a three-mile radius and can ferry cargo within a half-hour while traveling at walking speed. Only you can unlock the delivery, and the robots will blare an alarm if someone tries to steal them. While you can track them on a smartphone, Starship bots are also monitored by people who can quickly intervene to keep a thief's hands off your precious Chinese food.
DRU: The Cheeky Pizza Delivery Robot
That's short for Domino's Robotic Unit, the pizza giant's latest and sleekest recruit. DRU has separate compartments for fresh pies and chilled drinks, keeping them at their ideal temperatures while in transit. Australian start-up Marathon Robotics is behind the plucky prototype's technology, which borrows some military designs but also uses Domino's own innovations. DRU has a chummy demeanor and is very easy to work with: to retrieve your pizza, you just punch in a code. DRU hasn't hit the streets just yet, but it looks like pizza delivery is about to be changed forever.
K5: The Crime-Fighting Security Patrol
Forget K9s. Not only does this security bot act as a guard dog, it can alert authorities if there's trouble afoot. Silicon Valley start-up Knightscope has created two bots: the K3 and the bigger, five-foot-tall, 300-pound K5, both of which could easily pass for cousins of R2-D2. Designed to monitor any geo-fenced location in need of an extra set of eyes and ears, the security bots have already been spotted in the wild and Instagrammed in California roaming around malls and parking lots (#securityrobot). The robots have 360-degree vision, and once they're tipped off to tomfoolery, they can ring an alarm, record video, capture license plates, and alert the company's security operations team. They even have a built-in emergency intercom that you can push if you feel like you're in danger.
Relay: The Hospitality Guru
Next time you're traveling and realize you've forgotten your toothpaste, a room service robot might greet you at your hotel room door. Think of it as a butler, but cuter! Created by a company called Savioke (pronounced "savvy oak"), Relay robots have made more than 50,000 autonomous deliveries at Los Angeles hotels like Embassy Suites and Crowne Plaza. The room service robots are slender, so as not to clutter up hallways, and they look happy, too, with blinking eyes and an arc below the screen that resembles a smile. They even call your room to let you know they're approaching. Classy.