An animatronic bust of Arnold Schwarzenegger was probably among the last things I expected to run into at CES. Maybe it shouldn't have been, but as a quick scan of the show will tell you: if the robots want to gain our trust, they've got to be cute. Otherwise, we're kind of scared of their potential. So finding the face of the OG killer robot himself right there, propped up next to all the cutesy service bots, with their cartoon voices and oversized, doe-ish eyes, caught me a bit off guard.
Promobot introduced its lifelike Android Robo-C at the Las Vegas Convention Center this week, boasting that the humanoid has over 100,000 speech modules and nearly two dozen control points to mimic human communication.
And, there's just something really, really creepy about it (definitely not the unsettlingly warm skin, the crazed, spinning eyes, or the way it slowly turns its head to scan the crowd, probably for the weak ones falling behind the pack).
The company chose to model its show floor example after the beefy actor-turned-politician, but it says the bot can be tailored to fit "any appearance on demand." In one case, Promobot co-founder Oleg Kivokurtsev told Input, a woman even asked the company to create one in the likeness of her dead husband. According to Kivokurtsev, the company declined because it "wasn't ready for that." Based on the chatter in the LVCC media room, we weren't the only reporters he'd told that to today. Hm.
There's probably more to that story — There's no way to verify whether or not the story behind that request is true (my bet is, it's not) — it wouldn't be the first time the company has found itself involved in highly questionable, extremely headline-grabbing situations — and... well, there's a Black Mirror episode or five that can help you work out why that's probably not the best use case. But if you really need to know, Promobot says you can purchase one of your own and customize it however you see fit for $25,000.
It's all in good fun — Promobot is also behind a customer service bot that looks a lot more like its cherubic competitors. That one is, on the other hand, unquestionably legitimate. It makes a lot more sense than its counterpart as a robot that's designed to work with the public.
But, whatever the truth is about Android Robo-C, there's at least one person whose heart it won...