Best robots at CES 2021: Humanoid hosts, AI pets, UV-C disinfecting bots, and more

Each year, CES features the latest in robotics innovation, and this year is no exception. From disinfecting robots to AI-enabled companions, here are some of the best robots at CES 2021.

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ADIBOT-A

Image: UBTECH

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, CES 2021 is being held virtually. Each year, the multi-day event features a wide range of product and service announcements across the tech sector including the latest in engineering and artificial intelligence (AI) innovations. So it should come as no surprise that the event often touts a number of impressive robots, and this year is no exception. From humanoid hosts and UV-C-equipped robots to AI pets, here are some of the best bots we've seen at CES 2021 so far.

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"CES 2021 is different, just like all events have been during this pandemic, but we've found the transition to promote UBTECH's intelligent humanoid robots and AI, to be seamless," said John Rhee, senior vice president and general manager, UBTECH North America, via email.

"Our materials, images, and videos are accessible as if they were at a physical booth, but the experience of seeing UBTECH's robots in person is much different. Where show attendees would get that in-person wow factor with interacting with our robots, they are now receiving it a bit differently," Rhee continued.

The company's humanoid robot, Walker, has been a CES staple in the past and is still making an appearance at this year's virtual event. Rather than bedazzling audiences in-person, Walker is instead hosting UBTECH's virtual booth.

"Walker introduces the full line of UBTECH products, providing those with the same fun, warm introduction they'd have if in person. Overall, the transition to virtual from an exhibitor side has gone well," Rhee said.

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Pandemic tech and robot companions

There were also robotic innovations focused on sanitization efforts; a timely focus amid a modern plague. For example, UBTECH unveiled a number of disinfecting robots including the ADIBOT-A series. The units use a 360-degree UV-C light to disinfect surfaces in a host of environments such as schools, hospitals, offices, gyms, and subway cars. The ADIBOT-A features LiDAR, cameras, motion sensors, and ultrasonic sensors. The autonomous module "can be programmed and mapped to independently navigate one or multiple floor plans," according to a product brochure.

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"This pandemic and the ongoing exposures to other viruses outside of a pandemic has shifted our focus to help disinfect areas that may not have strong ventilation or to avoid harsh chemicals or human error. We see disinfecting robots as a need for businesses and schools to reopen safely and remain open for years to come," Rhee said.

AI pets and STEM kits

There have also been several robotic unveilings focused on companionship including AI pets. Samsung showcased a number of bots including Bot Handy and Bot Care both of which are in development. Bot Handy touts a multidigit robotic arm and uses AI to pick up objects of various shapes. Potential Bot Handy duties include tidying up rooms and sorting dishes. Bot Care functions as a "robotic assistant and companion" of sorts and uses AI to understand a person's behavior and provide owners with reminders to help them with their day-to-day happenings.

Touted as an "AI pet robot with emotional capabilities" the MOFLIN from Vanguard Industries picked up a Best of Innovation Award in robotics at CES 2021. Using an algorithm and a number of sensors beneath the MOFLIN's plush coat, the bot is able to "learn and grow by constantly using its interactions to determine patterns and evaluate its surroundings from its sensors," according to its honoree page. The furry bot makes noises, squirms about, and is capable of choosing "from an infinite number of mobile and sound pattern combinations to respond and express its feelings."

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