Is Your AI Companion a Real Robot or Just an Imposter?

CES can be a disorienting experience, but it’s also shown us one thing for certain: opinions vary on what does and doesn’t count as a robot.

It’s not a problem, really. Language and technology are both evolving. I was on the Equity Podcast this week with Haje, one of our hardware reporters, to discuss CES. He suggested that most tech today is essentially robotic in nature. We could fairly argue that “robot” encompasses much more than how we usually use it; machine learning has become pervasive in unexpected ways!

Casting a wide net shows that ubiquitous robotics isn’t just a vision of the future, but is already here. I prefer to think of it as involving autonomy and perception; much like humans, they take in external information and make decisions.

This newsletter won’t focus on the 8 billion lidar startups out there. Instead, we’ll provide value that goes beyond mere pedantry or orthodoxy. We have guardrails to help us focus on what makes sense for you, our readers!

Seeing a “smart” washing machine might be novel the first time, but bombarding you with them every week wouldn’t be welcome. Robotic vacuums, however, do meet the robot requirements for many people – me included. I cover them here occasionally; I know that covering every single robotic vacuum on the market would drive away readers.


Robosen Robotics is a cutting-edge robotics company that produces advanced robotic products. Their robots are designed to be versatile and adaptive, allowing them to achieve a wide range of tasks. They have developed several groundbreaking technologies,

At CES, it’s hard to distinguish between gadgets like Robosen’s Transformer robots and industrial robots. I jokingly suggested that “robots are cool technology used for uncool things,” which is a point worth considering.

Robot toys at shows like CES grab the headlines – they’re fun, good for traffic and often look like a platonic robot ideal. We’ll likely continue to write about them when genuinely interesting ones appear. Despite views on science fiction’s public perception, it will always remain an influence in our society.

I paid a hefty price to experience the new ‘Avatar’ movie in all its glory. What struck me – and probably you too – was how similar the US military robots on Pandora were to real-life robots today. If you want to spoil your date’s fun, just point out which robot in each sci-fi movie is based on existing tech!

I’ve spent the past week largely focused on robotics writing, which unsurprisingly is centered around CES. Hardware editors don’t have it easy!

Let’s wrap up with two top non-CES stories.

A robotic plant inspector from Mineral.

The image is credited to Mineral.

Mineral, an Alphabet company, graduated from the ‘moonshot’ labs this week after two years in stealth. The bot specializes in collecting data to provide farmers with actionable information for sustainable and efficient crop growth.

“After five years of honing our tech at X, Alphabet’s moonshot factory, Mineral is now an Alphabet company,” declared CEO Elliott Grant. “Our goal is to promote sustainable ag through a platform and tools that collect, organize and interpret new data about plants for practical applications.”

Image Credit: iRobot.

“When inviting technology into your home, what is the reasonable expectation of privacy?” This was the question posed by one user in response to a clear breach of agreement and violation of trust.

Image Credit: Bryce Durbin/TechGround

That’s all for this week! I’m aiming to get some rest this weekend and be back with you in seven days. In the meantime, don’t forget to subscribe to Actuator – if you haven’t already!

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Ava Patel

Ava Patel is a cultural critic and commentator with a focus on literature and the arts. She is known for her thought-provoking essays and reviews, and has a talent for bringing new and diverse voices to the forefront of the cultural conversation.

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