Industrial robots are getting cheaper — or at least the upfront cost is falling in comparison with the rising costs of employing human workers. Robots and single purpose industrial robots can be rented or leased, and prices are becoming less of a hindrance to automation even to smaller manufacturers.
Home-use robots are a different kettle of fish. A robot vacuum cleaner can cost less than $200 and they are wildly popular. For about the same price you can get a robotic window washer — not as popular, but easy to come by if you want one. Robotic lawnmowers run closer to $1,000. They are not very popular.
And that’s the problem. That $25,000 industrial robot makes sense in a factory where it can work 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and earn its keep. Most people won’t pay that much for a machine that may or may not be able to do anything very helpful but for sure will not clean your house throughly while you’re at work and greet you with a hot dinner when you get home.
Just like a car
Experts suggest that a home robot should be expected to cost the same as a car. The value of a car is clear, though. It gets you to work every day. The value of a home robot is much less certain. Elon Musk may say it will be your “buddy,” but it’s not clear what a general-purpose robot will be able to do in a home context.
We know that current domestic robots can’t do laundry or wash dishes. An industrial dishwashing robot exists, but at nearly $3,000 per month, it’s not really family-friendly.
At this point, the only real-world functional domestic robots are the companion robots sold to provide elderly people with a sort of mobile version of Alexa.
Makers of domestic robots have not yet been able to create machines worth the cost.