CES Robotic Pandemic Glorification

Just a short note on CES 2021 robotics. As you might expect, people are writing post-mortems for a year with log innovation, but lots of adoption of virtual services. During 2020, many tech-pundits felt that the pandemic would finally bring humanoid robots into widespread use. Instead, we got Zoom.

However there is a framework for stories about robots helping during the pandemic, and reporters have duly been plugging in dubious tech into the expected narrative. Check out “robots can ease our pandemic woes.”


The article features more humanoid shells for tele-operation. The author makes the unlikely stretch-case that people will use robots to move around in infected (read: public) areas. There is a report of a carpet-cleaning robot moving around with strong UV lights to disinfect spaces – first reported in the spring of 2020. This is something that might be useful. Finally, “smart” N95 masks, from game dev Razer, which seem to be more about being a Batman villain

You need batteries for air to be forced into the mask (geez), and UV sterilization (more practical. However, the big goal with this concept seems to be making masking be cool. In fact, it fits the gamer aesthetic of looking part-robot, more like the 3D generated images in a game. One wears masks for medical reasons. However, the excitement here seems to be more about strapping machines onto one’s body than protection against covid.

Bane would approve:

Source: Fandom (image linked)

(Interesting how much the Bane ‘mask’ looks like the fleshy Predator face!

Custom NECA Elder face
Source: Deviant Art (image linked)

Fun and games with a pandemic, but this is more serious – some work on long-anticipated “micro-robots” that can crawl around your body and do stuff.

Source: Cornel University

Laser jolts microscopic electronic robots into motion | Cornell Chronicle

Near-term, not so bad. There may be some use cases for micro (as opposed to nano) robots. Long-term, a problem.

Imagine someone full of these remote-controlled robots doing ‘maintenance’ on their various body parts. In a certain sense, their body is not partly controlled and directed by a third party, who also owns the intellectual property for the robots, and probably the physical robots as well. The person has a ‘service.’ The intimate contact with their body implies that to some extent, their body has itself been converted to a ‘service that they consume’ rather than a physical blob of tissue that they have rights over. Chew on that one…

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