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As consumers are redefining the at home experience, new technologies are appearing that not only bring in levels of convenience, but, now, even personality. Robots are taking their seat at the table with dog-esque friendliness.

The idea of mechanical figures with lifelike, humanoid qualities has been a preoccupation of the human imagination for just about as long as people have been around. Long before the word “robot” existed, we’ve been dreaming of golems, automatons, and – with the advent of electricity and computing – friendly (or not-so-friendly) machines who embody both the form and spirit of living creatures.

Now, we’re finally seeing that dream slowly start to beep-bloop-bleep its way into reality. No, technology hasn’t quite progressed to the point where Rosie the robot maid will cheerfully do your laundry while mixing you a cocktail, but these days one can barely scream into the void without a digital voice answering back with a friendly “How can I help?”

Despite the ubiquity of computers eager to offer a hand, it doesn’t quite feel like we’ve entered the robotic age that was promised by The Jetsons. Today’s quasi-robots may be able to vacuum your house, co-pilot your car, and DJ your dinner party, but they all leave something to be desired in the personality department. Does anyone really want to hang out with their GPS?

It’s not a minor consideration: a quality of gut-level relatability is a fundamental aspect of what defines a robot in our collective imagination. From Tik-Tok the machine-man in L. Frank Baum’s classic Oz books, to the Star Wars droids, to the fix-its in Batteries Not Included, the point of robots in science fiction has always been twofold. To be useful, yes, but also – and perhaps more importantly – to be lifelike. After all, a vending machine is not a robot, no matter how efficiently it delivers you your bag of chips. And BB8 without a personality is just a fancy soccer ball.

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