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Robot’s epic meltdown at US tech show

ROBOTS and artificial intelligence designed to improve our lives, cool our homes, and remind us buy groceries dominated the lead-up to the world’s largest technology show in Las Vegas today, but not all of the technology was up to the task.

In a failure reminiscent of 2001: A Space Odyssey, LG’s new robotic assistant flat-out refused to respond to its maker during the first presentation of the Consumer Electronics Show press day, leading to awkward moments and a comment that the robot designed for friendly interactions “doesn’t like me, evidently”.

After pledging to add artificial intelligence to all of its home appliances this year, LG Electronics US marketing vice-president David VanderWaal introduced the company’s new personal robot, CLOi, that was designed to respond to user’s voice commands.

“There are already a variety of products that help make homes smarter, including speakers that listen and even talk,” Mr VanderWaal said.

“CLOi here is our way to operate your LG devices via voice commands. Plus, we really love how CLOi is capable of physical and emotional interaction. She’s so cute. Talk about innovation that makes you smile.”

CLOi responded to Mr VanderWaal’s first question by reminding him to go the gym and setting his washing machine for gym clothes, but any smiles quickly faded after that.

The small robot continued to blink her electronic eyes, but failed to respond to any commands on stage, leading to long awkward pauses.

First, she failed to deliver information about he washing machine’s cycle. Next, she remained silent about Mr VanderWaal’s dinner request, creating an eight-second silence while a packed auditorium collectively held its breath for her response.

“CLOi is not going to talk to me and CLOi doesn’t like me, evidently,” Mr VanderWaal quipped.

One final try, preferenced by “CLOi, are you talking to me yet,” also delivered nothing but silence.

Despite the high-profile robotic failure, LG also showed off three new robots designed for public service — one to carry suitcases in hotels, another to deliver room service, and a third to carry groceries in supermarkets — that will be trialled in overseas locations.

LG Electronics Australia marketing general manager Angus Jones could not confirm whether the CLOi robot would be launched in Australia, but it could arrive if there proved to be a market for it.

Other firms including Samsung, Sony and Panasonic will present new technology at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas today.

Jennifer Dudley-Nicholson travelled to Las Vegas as a guest of Samsung.

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