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Don’t expect a personal robot butler any time soon

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LG CLOi Hub Robot


LG’s CLOi hub robot got a little camera shy during the company’s CES presentation.

Before the Consumer Electronics Show opens to all its attendees, there’s a press day in which many of the bigger manufacturers put on elaborate productions to show off their new products, announce new partnerships, and give us a glimpse into their future tech. It helps set the tone for the show and really get people fired up to hit the floor and check out some new gadgets.

This year, LG was one of the first companies on the press conference schedule, and one of its marquis demos was a Hub Robot that embodies the company’s digital home assistant, CLOi—pronounced like the human name, Chloe. Instead of making LG look like the future of technology, however, this robot served as a good reminder of just how far we are from the autonomous robot butlers we’ve been promised.

The CLOi bot has a vaguely humanoid face and the kind of cloying appeal you’d expect from a Pixar character. The bot was cooperative at first, responding to LG marketing chief David VanderWaal initially before CLOi started doing its best moody teenager impression. The bot stopped responding in front of a room full of tech reporters. The blip wasn’t totally unexpected since robots require things like a reliable internet connection and freedom from wireless interference, both of which are in short supply at CES. But even if it had worked, CLOi isn’t the robot of our dreams; it’s mostly just a conduit between a user and LG’s ThinQ smart home tech, which exists as a loosely connected group of smart gadgets scattered throughout your home.

I want a robot in my house that does stuff for me. Remember that scene in Rocky IVwhen that terrible robot delivers Pauly a birthday cake? Where’s that robot?

The rest of the robots

Scanning the rest of the CES robots doesn’t hold much in the way of promising our own robotic servant, either.

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