back to article James Dyson plans ROBOT ARMY to take over the world

British vacuum cleaner wizard James Dyson is sticking £5m into a new project with Imperial College London (ICL) designed to produce robots that can help out with household chores. His eponymous company will stump up some of the cash for the lab over five years, with another £3m coming from elsewhere. Some 15 scientists, …

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  1. Christian Berger Silver badge

    In the UK?!

    I'm sorry, I wouldn't buy such a device designed in the UK. I wouldn't buy a device coming from someone who grew up in a country where people think it's healthy to have more surveillance cameras than people. This doesn't seem like a place where even the most basic privacy protection could come from.

    However I applaud Dyson for trying to promote the idea of inspiring technology as this can cause good people to turn to engineering instead of money laundering. Though I believe this is rather futile in most western countries, I dearly hope I'm wrong.

    1. returnmyjedi

      Re: In the UK?!

      Your caution over buying UK designed products is completely founded. It's a well hidden fact that we are required by orders from the Queen to slip a surveillance equipment into every product we design, from Land Rovers and JCBs all the way down to Sir James of Dyson's vacuum cleaners. Even a block of Cadbury's Dairy Milk has a hidden mic inside.

      1. Richard 81

        Re: In the UK?!

        "Even a block of Cadbury's Dairy Milk has a hidden mic inside."

        The NSA and GCHQ are listening to the inside of your colon as we speak.

        1. Rich 11 Silver badge

          Re: In the UK?!

          They're not hearing anything from me. I line my digestive system with the tinfoil Cadbury's so kindly provide.

          1. Richard Taylor 2 Silver badge
            Happy

            Re: In the UK?!

            "They're not hearing anything from me. I line my digestive system with the tinfoil Cadbury's so kindly provide."

            That's where I have been going wrong - thanks for the headsup

            1. Alister Silver badge

              Re: In the UK?!

              Using the term headsup whilst discussing the digestive system...

              EEEEEWWWWWWW

        2. DPWDC

          Re: In the UK?!

          "The NSA and GCHQ are listening to the inside of your colon as we speak."

          I think we're all listening to his colon (or at least what comes out of it) at the moment...

        3. auburnman
          Joke

          Re: In the UK?!

          "The NSA and GCHQ are listening to the inside of your colon as we speak."

          They have a nice little sideline selling the output of this on to the Pop music industry.

      2. VinceH Silver badge
        Big Brother

        Re: In the UK?!

        "Even a block of Cadbury's Dairy Milk has a hidden mic inside."

        This is quite clearly nonsense.

        Cadbury's chocolate bars contain GPS trackers.

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
          Happy

          Re: In the UK?!

          Don't be daft. Tracker bars contain the GPS trackers. whAM bars contain radio transmitters, Wispa bars contain microphones, and Lion bars have the batteries needed to run the others.

          It's all in the name...

        2. Random Coolzip

          Re: In the UK?!

          "Cadbury's chocolate bars contain GPS trackers"

          Gastric positioning system? Who knew!

    2. wolfetone Silver badge

      Re: In the UK?!

      "I'm sorry, I wouldn't buy such a device designed in the UK. I wouldn't buy a device coming from someone who grew up in a country where people think it's healthy to have more surveillance cameras than people. This doesn't seem like a place where even the most basic privacy protection could come from."

      So you'd sooner buy products from the USA and China then?

      1. Kepler
        Facepalm

        Re: In the UK?!

        "So you'd sooner buy products from the USA and China then?"

        The American government is well on its way to becoming East Germany, but the culture of the American people remains solidly libertarian in THIS area (i.e., personal privacy, though not in others), for the most part. The government has gotten away with its march forward to 1984 largely by keeping it a secret from the American people, and by using the terrorist threat when necessary to cow us into submission. Now that the people have found out what has been going on, however, the process of reigning the government back in has commenced; we shall see what happens. I expect the progress to be slow, but ultimately substantial. And if tomorrow's festivities* end up sparking a quantum leap in the right direction, I will be happy to have proved wrong in my caution.

        I clicked the "Up" arrow anyway, because I think wolfetone's point is perfectly fair in view of PRESENT circumstances, and VERY well taken.

        .

        * The Day We Fight Back

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Day_We_Fight_Back

    3. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: In the UK?!

      Christian Berger,

      You do realise that the stat on how Britain had more CCTV cameras per head than anywhere else in the world was 'extrapolated' from counting cameras in 2 streets in Paddington, don't you?

      i.e. it was made up.

      Not that Britain doesn't have loads and loads of CCTV cameras. I just suspect that it's no more than many other wealthy economies.

  2. Mondo the Magnificent

    I on the other hand....

    ..would welcome this technology with open arms...

    As a kid in the 70's I watched "Silent Running" and seeing Bruce Dern playing poker with the little droids, named Huey, Louis and Dewey I wanted to own a droid!

    Stars Wars was the game changer, droids with personality and functionality! My yearning for a droid continued.

    Battlestar Galactica gave us the warning that droids can run amok posing a threat to humans when blatantly ignoring Asimov's "Three Laws of Robotics"

    Runaway with Tom Selleck was a classic with criminals purposely programming robots to be bad-assed and commit murders.

    I Robot with the Fresh Prince of Bel Air was a good insight to "when good robots go bad" but those robots were exceptionally functional until the "ghost in the machine" became aware of the "human threat" a-la Skynet from the Terminator franchise

    Taking all this positivity and negativity into account I would still welcome a functional and obedient robot into my household. If it can help with chores like putting the garbage out, walking the dog and mowing the lawn, then it's a bonus.

    If it can play Chess and / or cards, then even better.

    The one thing I wouldn't want is a robot that mimics a human form (Ash in Alien and Bishop in Aliens), as a robot I'd expect it to have robotic features that make it distinctive

    The only downside I see is the maintenance and charge times, oh and the possible smell of hydraulic oil, unless it's pneumatic.

    Bottom line, I am in my 50's and I certainly don't want the "robot generation" to come too late.

    Bring it on James Dyson!

    1. Paul Westerman
      Thumb Up

      Re: I on the other hand....

      +1 for mentioning Runaway!

    2. Captain Hogwash Silver badge

      Re: If it can play Chess and / or cards, then even better.

      We already have machines which can do those things. If you're hoping for a general purpose robot then I think you'll be disappointed. Robots will be specialised for handling particular tasks - just like the human workers who create them.

    3. VinceH Silver badge
      Terminator

      Re: I on the other hand....

      I have seen all of the documentaries you mention, with the exception of Runaway.

      I shall keep an eye out for it.

  3. LaeMing Silver badge

    Ironing?

    Who Irons in this day and age? The only thing I have in my wardrobe that can't dry crease-free if hun properly on the line needs to be dry-cleaned anyway (and I only ever wear it to weddings, funerals and job interviews anyway).

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Ironing?

      Agreed, better fabric technology would appear to be the simpler, more energy efficient route to smart looking shirts.

    2. harmjschoonhoven
      Coat

      Re: Ironing?

      One of the little pleasures in life is to put on a DIY ironed shirt while it still hot, out of sight of CCTV of course.

      1. Intractable Potsherd

        Re: Ironing?

        I'm very much in the "why haven't irons gone the same way as typewriters?" camp - used only by weirdos and military types.

        1. Martin Budden
          Joke

          Re: Ironing?

          I'm very much in the "why haven't irons gone the same way as typewriters?" camp - used only by weirdos and military types.

          But, Woody Allen uses a typewriter and he isn't in the military?

    3. stucs201

      Re: Ironing?

      Drying washing on the line?

      You missed that this is a UK company behind this didn't you? I don't think anyone has managed to dry washing outside for about 3 months now...

    4. Ugotta B. Kiddingme

      Re: Ironing?

      My FemBot was so good at household chores that I married her years ago. Odd thing is that she's recharged by using credit cards and by receiving shiny baubles. Bit of an "obedience" problem as well, but I suppose you can't have EVERYTHING... I at least DO get a crisply ironed shirt.

  4. Amorous Cowherder
    Headmaster

    Oh no! I need my kids to learn the value of hard work and doing things for the benefit of everyone in the house by helping out with some of the chores, so no robo-slaves in my house!

    1. JDX Gold badge

      I think the parents are supposed to set an example of the value of hard work by doing some themselves, not sit about on their arses and make the kids do all the chores ;)

  5. Dan 55 Silver badge
    Trollface

    It's okay, there's no chance of our Android-based robot overlords overthrowing us...

    ... if the battery only lasts 9 hours.

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: It's okay, there's no chance of our Android-based robot overlords overthrowing us...

      Hopefully it won't be necessary to clean a Dysonbot's filters every ten minutes to maintain peak performance. Or maybe it will clean it's own filters, particularly if it has cyclonic feet and sweeps as it serves the tea.

      Although I think there will be a market for general purpose robots in the home I think the continuing developments leading to smart homes built with self cleaning or other smart materials and functions is the way to go.

      As mentioned; smart fabrics are doing away with the need to iron, washing machine are well on the way to being smart already, we have self cleaning ovens.

      As these things become more advanced and houses become more integrated as a single machine that provide all the functions for normal living the need for anything but a companion robot will disappear for domestic use.

      Just curious but what does a Japanese Red Light Fembot look like and do for you?

      Just Googled and found these, the first one is quite clever but creepy, the second.... defies description!

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CXce7F4bWxQ

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=njaSXZC6qJM

  6. solo

    [".. seeing and thinking in the way we do .."]

    Sure. Make them think like us.

    "Hey! Why I am cleaning this garbage when I can ..."

  7. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    The dream lives on.

    I though shadow robotics had a shot at it but they seem to have sunk without a trace.

    Building a robot using plywood and air muscles with the full muscle structure on the idea that if you want human mobility you need to design like a human.

    It's only when you try to make a human that you realize how light the structure is

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The dream lives on.

      "It's only when you try to make a human that you realize how light the structure is"

      Precisely. We are still a loooong way from a human-mass robot that can come close to the performance, reliability, and ruggedness of a human, not to mention the self-repairing and *ahem* self-replicating features.

      And the AI side is no better, maybe a lot worse. Sooo, I guess we'll just have to be satisfied with good old human overlords, or insect, or alien, or vegetable...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The dream lives on.

      "It's only when you try to make a human that you realize how light the structure is"

      You've not met my ex wife then

      Yes - ANON!

  8. HKmk23

    Ha ha ha

    Irrespective of Dyson, we cannot even produce decent voice recognition software..........eg; Master to robot "shut the door" robots reply "Yes sir, I will shoot the poor immediately"....................

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: Ha ha ha

      Robots like that would sell well in Downing Street.

      1. Martin Budden
        Coat

        Re: Ha ha ha

        I thought they already had a policeman in Downing Street who makes sure the door is shut.

      2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Happy

        Re: Ha ha ha

        "Robots like that would sell well in Downing Street."

        They call it a "Think tank," with the emphasis on the tank.

  9. scrishton

    ..."seeing and thinking in the way we do"...

    Let's build robots with 'Genuine People Personalities'. Oh God I'm so depressed.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Skynet

    Hmm, wasn't Skynet's creator also named Dyson? (Albeit first name Miles)

  11. Tromos

    "Gadget boffin wants an android doing the ironing and washing up in every home"

    Never mind Android, if it can do the ironing, I'd even consider iOS!

  12. Yesnomaybe

    Dyson and fembots

    So obvious now, I understand why Dyson of all people is involved.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ROTM

    "My generation believed the world would be overrun by robots by the year 2014."

    Not in military terms I hope, as someone has already noted the surname Dyson doesn't inspire trust in this area

    1. Kepler
      Black Helicopters

      Re: ROTM

      Thank God someone mentioned the Rise of the Machines!

      Speaking of which, what the Hell ever happened to "The Rise of the Machines™"? And why wasn't this article included in the series?

      Time was when one could count on El Reg to keep one abreast of such doings, but the venerable series has languished, with only a handful of updates over the past five years, and none—at least officially—since November of 2012.

      http://www.theregister.co.uk/Tag/rotm

      http://search.theregister.co.uk/?q=ROTM

      The present article should count as an update, but for some reason was not connected with the series to which it obviously belongs. Obviously someone is trying to keep things quiet and not draw any further attention to the Rise of the Machines as a larger phenomenon that connects and underlies individual incidents. The Register still publishes the occasional story, as here, but no longer connects the dots.

      Has Lester been co-opted by the Lizard Alliance?

      Pity. He used to be at the forefront of this sort of practical journalism that all other news outlets—having already been co-opted—always shied away from, as these now-ancient but astonishingly apposite examples attest:

      Dyson unleashes self-replicating hoover http://www.theregister.co.uk/2005/03/11/self_replicating_hoover/

      Killer hoover attacks Scotsman http://www.theregister.co.uk/2004/12/24/killer_dyson/

      Both examples—and countless others like them—bore Lester's byline. He was the leading contributor to the series, by far. But now he appears to be quietly spiking it, in an effort to downplay the concerted nature of the threat. Heaven only knows where we can turn to to be kept informed, now that even El Reg is dropping the ball (at the behest of its reptilian overlords?).

      1. solo
        Terminator

        Re: ROTM

        Sadly, we don't need tagging news now. Every second tech news is about the rising.

    2. Kepler
      Terminator

      Re: ROTM

      "My generation believed the world would be overrun by robots by the year 2014."

      Wasn't it closer to 2029?

  14. Kubla Cant Silver badge

    "The Chocolate Factory has been not-so-quietly hovering up companies"

    I think you mean either Hoovering, or possibly Dysoning.

    1. Kepler
      Headmaster

      Re: "The Chocolate Factory has been not-so-quietly hovering up companies"

      "I think you mean either Hoovering, or possibly Dysoning."

      Thank you! I'm glad someone noticed that and pointed it out!

      (The typo, too, but mainly the oddity and irony of saying "hoovering" when James Dyson, of all people, is the subject of the piece!)

      Of course, in an article about robots, Roomba-ing also might have been a better choice than the standard and otherwise-superior term Hoovering.

      (A quick Google search informs me that Hoover now offers a robot model too, but surely Roomba is the one and only name that is synonymous with robotic vacuum cleaning.)

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What I want is a home swarm of nanobots to clean surfaces, dispose of dust etc. I'd be a bit scared about them eating my face though.

  16. Elmer Phud Silver badge

    I'm one of the lucky ones

    I'm too skint to buy a Dyson product.

    And I don't want to live in a place that is kept scrupulously clean.

    Yesterday's cold pizza is tomorrow's breakfast -- might not even have to go as far as the fridge to get it.

    1. ecofeco Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: I'm one of the lucky ones

      While I do like a clean abode, I also cannot afford a Dyson anything.

      But I do like leftover pizza.

      Have an upvote on me and a beer to go with that pizza.

  17. Heisenberg

    Let me know...

    ...when Dyson buy into Fleshlight...

  18. MooseNC
    Terminator

    And what will happen when these robots decide that the walking, bacteria-laden flesh-bags need to be cleaned up?

  19. phil dude
    Coat

    kryten...

    I'll get my coat...

    P.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Windows

    Squalor is the prime irritant

    What about all the people who already eat "Yesterday's cold pizza as tomorrow's breakfast..."? What will they do when robots take care of every tedious chore in their lazy lives?

    Yup, they evolve into huge disgusting sluglike things, ministered to and totally dependent on their mechanical servants. And that kind of tale NEVER has a happy ending!

    1. Kepler
      Alien

      Re: Squalor is the prime irritant

      "Yup, they evolve into huge disgusting sluglike things, . . ."

      That eat lots of spice, do fancy maths in their heads, and fold space for a living? I think they eventually form a guild.

  21. ItsPete

    It's happened before...

    Has no one noticed what you get when you mix ICL with Dyson.

    "There must be some kind of way out of here..."

  22. Martin Budden
    Boffin

    Power?

    How will the robot be powered? Does the robot plug itself into a mains socket at the location of each job and have a battery only big enough to get from one job to the next? Because there is no way the robot is carrying around enough power to last all day, or even a couple of hours. We simply don't have the tech for the kind of volume power density required (I'm discounting an ICE because the robot needs to work inside a house).

  23. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

    What sort of Dyson product will these robots be?

    Will they be overpriced and overrated like his vacuum cleaners, or fraudulent rubbish for the credible like his fans?

    No doubt they'll either suck or blow, anyway.

    I suppose the real question is how long it'll be before I have to endure a new set of television advertisements featuring the smarmy git trying to sell me some line of nonsense regarding his imaginary technological breakthroughs. ("An ordinary robot hates fleshy humans. My robots are built using patented Dyson human-loving technology.")

    1. Kepler
      Pint

      Re: What sort of Dyson product will these robots be?

      "No doubt they'll either suck or blow, anyway."

      .

      (1) Good one!

      (I for one didn't get it the first time I read your post, Michael. I thought you were just being very critical of Dyson products when you wrote "suck or blow," and did not realize you were also being descriptively and technically accurate, and specific: his vacuum cleaners DO suck, and his fans DO blow!

      My apologies if everyone got this immediately but I.)

      .

      (2) If Bart Simpson is to be trusted as an authority, it MIGHT be possible that they will end up doing BOTH! That the new Dyson robots will suck AND blow, at the same time!

      http://www.snpp.com/guides/bart.file.html

      http://simpsons.wikia.com/wiki/Marge_Simpson_in:_%22Screaming_Yellow_Honkers%22

      http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/The_Simpsons/Season_10#Marge_Simpson_in:_.22Screaming_Yellow_Honkers.22

      (Although the second and third URLs probably extend beyond the visible right edge of the comment display box in your browser, as they do in mine, you still can select either or both of them in its or their entirety.)

  24. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Terminator

    The new Dyson DoBot (not TM)

    It beats as it sweeps as it chops up the meatsacks and prepares them for incineration.

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