Editor's Blog

Blinking mad

On a list of Things I Could Live Without, a robot designed to ‘enhance use of kitchen appliances’ would feature somewhere near the bottom, alongside gastroenteritis and Ed Sheeran. 

That we are now developing AI to remind us when to put a fast wash on, or empty the fridge, suggests a surfeit of technology, not a deficit. We humans are being stripped of our agency.

So I admit the schadenfreude was running high when a refusnik robot, created by LG, repeatedly failed to take instruction at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.

Cloi (pronounced Kloh-ee) was meant to be the centrepiece of the South Korean firm's presentation, but to three consecutive commands it – good grief, I nearly wrote she! - merely blinked.

The machine was described as being the ‘ultimate in simplicity when managing your smart home’, when it was presented on stage by David VanderWaal, LG's US marketing chief.

But when VanderWaal asked Cloi when his washing was ready, what was planned for dinner, and what recipes it could suggest for chicken, the robot could only bat its eye-lashes.

Social media did its worst, mocking the poor bot, and VanderWaal must have wanted the stage to swallow him up, but something in the sorry spectacle left me feeling reassured.

With driverless cars on the horizon, talk of a world run by robots has gathered pace. But Cloi’s vacant obstinacy suggests our android friends are not ready for world domination just yet.

Which is a good thing. Because the day we hand over the keys and let them get on with it, might be the day when thousands of people meeting face to face to share ideas sounds blinking mad.


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