IPO Corner: The Next Wave Of Household Robots

What would you do with almost 40% more free time? If you said sleep… us too. According to a recent report in the journal PLOS One, that’s a question you’ll be able to ask yourself within the next ten years. They say that, because of recent advancements in tech, we’ll see 39% of our household tasks automated by 2033. If you’re thinking that’s not a big deal… consider that you, the average guy, currently do just about as much unpaid work at home as you do paid work at your “real” job.

The voices of 65 A.I. experts weighed in to inform the report by looking at about 17 different tasks that will be impacted in some way. Grocery shopping seemed to be at the top of the list for going bye-bye in its current iteration… they’re saying that 60% that will be automated. Next in line, things like laundry and general cleaning will be reduced by up to half the time it takes now. Finally, up to 35% of things like caring for elders and pets will also be transformed.

Of course, you know we’re not getting out of here today without touching on how AI plays into all this. We found out that OpenAI has ChatGPT robots in the works, and recently they tossed a chunk of change at a Norwegian robotics firm called 1X to the tune of $23.5 million. It seems they have two automatons in mind for ChatGPT, EVE and NEO. While we’re not as interested in NEO for this piece (it’ll be more for research purposes), we are very interested in EVE.

That’s because EVE will be a humanoid robot that gets along on wheels instead of legs, like us bipedal folk. This AI-driven helper robot will be able to gently manipulate objects, adapting to the environment more like human hands so as not to break things. It could one day help those with different support needs or the elderly to perform repetitive tasks and carry heavy objects, like groceries, wheelchairs, or laundry baskets. EVE will use VR technology to give human drivers the robot’s perspective.

Looking toward where the technology will be is fun… but, for now, we’ll get our heads out of the clouds and bring things back down to earth. Way down… to the front lawn. While there may well come a time when AI-driven humanoid helper robots follow us around catering to our every whim, we’ll all be starting smaller. And, in a likely unsurprising twist, sustainability is playing a role. Not only will future home robots be smarter, they’ll be cleaner.

That’s not just conjecture… more and more cities are banning gas-powered lawn equipment, like mowers and leaf blowers. According to experts, using a gas-powered blower for an hour puts out the same emissions as a drive to L.A. from Denver. Outright bans, as well as limitations, are being enacted in places like Washington, California, and Vermont. If you see the term SOREs, it means “small off-road engines” and it’s what we’re calling these items.

While electric mowers and blowers are not new concepts, they are concepts that need to be fleshed out further to accommodate our needs. One company, Scythe, who you might remember from their $13.8 million Series A round in 2021, is building electric mowers targeting commercial landscapers, and they just raised another $42 million in Series B funding to do it with. Based in Boulder, Colorado, Scythe is thinking about very big yards, and it’s a good thing.

The company offers customers autonomous electric commercial mowers so they can get at jobs like sports fields, HOA complexes, and parks. This newest funding round, led by Energy Impact Partners and contributed to by names like the Alexa Fund and Alumni Venture, sparked chatter of an Alexa integration into the product. The chatter was squashed… but it’s okay to have hope. The company has started deliveries and is hiring additional staff to help meet growth and demand.

Currently, the household robots market is valued at about $8 billion, that number is projected to grow to almost $19 billion by 2028… that’s just around the corner. Research dollars are at work here, with places like the Toyota Research Institute arranging sit-downs with journalists to discuss how they’re working to build the perfect home robot with machine learning and sustainability baked in. Now that the AI and sustainability floodgates are open, it’s anyone’s game. Come back next week, we’ll have more from the IPO space.