The 10 Best Personal Robots

Updated June 16, 2018 by Lydia Chipman

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We're not saying that the machines are going to take over the world, but it may be a good idea to hedge your bets by getting your youngsters one of these interactive personal robots. Then, if the worst happens, at least your kids will know how to program and dismantle the darn things before they come to wipe out your house. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best personal robot on Amazon.

10. Ubtech Lynx

The Alexa-enabled Ubtech Lynx is a smart home companion that can observe and respond to a variety of household needs, like giving you a heads-up when there's breaking news, recommending you grab an umbrella before heading outside, or taking snapshots of guests who drop by.
  • voice-activated and video-enabled
  • 1080p camera with facial detection
  • limited range of movement
Model 03S1600601
Weight 11.7 pounds
Rating 3.8 / 5.0

9. WowWee Robosapien X

Designed by a NASA scientist, the WowWee Robosapien X is a fully articulated humanoid bot that can be programmed in multiple modes and with an unlimited number of steps to walk, run and engage in other dynamic movements, using the included controller or smartphone app.
  • arms with dual grippers
  • accessible interface
  • app integrations are unreliable
Brand WowWee
Model 8006
Weight 6 pounds
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

8. Jibo 2

The Jibo 2 costs a bit more upfront than other home automations, but this quirky, expressive little helper looks, listens and learns how to interact with members of the household in order to provide a wide array of voice-activated and AI-powered tips and services.
  • responsive behaviors
  • tracks movement and recognizes faces
  • more social bot than true assistant
Brand Jibo
Model pending
Weight 12.4 pounds
Rating 3.8 / 5.0

7. Dash and Dot

When Dash and Dot arrive fully assembled from Wonder Workshop, they come equipped with a suite of apps and tools designed to get young learners excited about programming. However, the pair's straightforward coding canvas and adaptive interactions can be fun at any age.
  • outstanding ease of use
  • excellent app integration
  • minimal setup required
Brand Wonder Workshop
Model 1-WB04-01
Weight 8.1 pounds
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

6. Lego Boost

Designed to engage kids as young as seven years old in dynamic STEM learning activities, Lego Boost provides everything you need to assemble and code five different multifunctional automatons. It offers sensors, servos and customizable interactions galore.
  • suitable for various skill levels
  • app-enabled programming guide
  • easy-to-use block coding
Brand LEGO
Model 6186142
Weight 3.3 pounds
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

5. Cozmo by Anki

Teacup-sized Cozmo by Anki brings machine learning and an "emotional engine" together in a playful design. The little bot's impressive repertoire of games and interactions can be grown not only via regular software updates but also through user programming and engagements.
  • playful design makes coding fun
  • affordably priced
  • smartphone app control
Brand Anki
Model 000-00048
Weight 3 pounds
Rating 4.7 / 5.0

4. Sphero R2-D2

The multi-generational appeal of the Sphero R2-D2 is partly attributable to the plucky droid it's based on, but simplicity and accessibility are its real star qualities. App-enabled programming and an adaptive "personality" make toying with it a great way to learn coding.
  • authentic and emotive movements
  • reacts to star wars movies
  • ios and android compatible
Brand Sphero
Model R201ROW
Weight 2.1 pounds
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

3. Ozobot Evo

Ozobot Evo, a pocket-sized playmate that performs tricks programmed via smartphone app integration, also uses optical sensors to follow color-coded "commands" placed or drawn on the surface it roams, including Follow, Music and Escape.
  • entertaining multicolor led effects
  • 4 different complexity levels
  • online creative community
Brand Ozobot
Model pending
Weight 1.5 pounds
Rating 4.9 / 5.0

2. Lego Mindstorms EV3

Combining robust programming capabilities with the ubiquitous bricks' familiar versatility, Lego Mindstorms EV3 is the bot to beat them all. From carrying out "missions" included in the instructions to building custom bots, EV3 offers maximum bang for your robotics buck.
  • multisensory and infrared inputs
  • 9 alternative coding languages
  • suitable for various skill levels
Brand LEGO
Model 31313
Weight 5.1 pounds
Rating 4.7 / 5.0

1. Sphero Sprk + Steam

Sphero Sprk + Steam offers an accessible and fun way for kids to learn coding, foster creativity and engage with other children through lively interactions and challenges. Its straightforward tap-to-connect feature makes it a classroom favorite for teachers, too.
  • programmable sensors
  • scratch-resistant and waterproof
  • cross-platform app compatibility
Brand Sphero
Model K001RW1
Weight 1.7 pounds
Rating 4.9 / 5.0

A Brief History Of Botting

Nowhere are the complexities of human interactions with the technologies we develop more evident than in the field of robotics. In the inexorable march of progress, the notion of a mechanized version of ourselves falling into step alongside us — with the potential to surpass us in ways we can only begin to imagine — generates both ecstatic hope and paroxysmal anxiety. Even in its earliest iterations, the term robot, arising from a Czech word meaning “forced labor”, carried some heavy baggage.

Although the modern concept of robotics traces its roots back a mere hundred years or so, representations of manufactured beings and fabricated automata appear throughout the pages of recorded history. Among the oldest known automatons are the mythological statue of Pygmalion and a clockwork dove designed by Archytas of Tarentum around 350 B.C.E., which is described as having flown as far as 200 meters. And long before the chess-playing hoax known as the Turk created a furore in the Viennese court, the mechanical monk commissioned by 16th-century Spanish monarch Phillip II was demonstrating the proper sequence of religious devotions.

In the modern era, industrial machines have fomented discord on factory floors, giving rise to union calls to prevent the loss of blue-collar workers' livelihoods. And at the dawn of the new millennium, automated systems seem poised to supplant or render obsolete an astonishing repertoire of human accomplishments. No longer confined to the realm of fantasy and science fiction, robotic creations are so intimately woven into the fabric of our lives that we think nothing of giving them cutesy names and entrusting them with aspects of our children's social development.

Celluloid Droids And Crises Of Conscience

Proclamations from the greatest minds in science and technology have raised not only our hopes for the future of robotics (think airborne fleets of self-driving vehicles), but also the disturbing spectre of AI and machine-learning run amok. While soft robotics may offer the promise of benign and infinitely patient inflatables like Baymax (the huggable “personal healthcare assistant” of Disney’s Big Hero 6), we can't ignore the scarier products of our imaginations like those that terrorize — and radically alter the fortunes of — the Aliens and Terminator franchises' protagonists, or the characters' troubling predicaments in such films as Her and Ex Machina.

As fraught as it is storied, the cinematic journey of robots — from the clunky artifice of Robby the Robot and the mindlessly menacing Cybermen of Dr. Who infamy to the touching, aspirational humanity of A.I.'s David and android Andrew Martin in Bicentennial Man — offers intriguing insights into human nature and the ways we engage with technology. Watching these fictional dilemmas and existential crises play out is a profoundly uncomfortable experience because it's impossible not to feel empathy for both the humans and the anthropomorphic machines that (who?) share the screen with them.

Perhaps even more unsettling are the enigmatic Synths of AMC’s Humans and the robotic Hosts of HBO’s Westworld series, which (who?) leave us grappling with the very crux of our existence. What does it mean to be sentient, how do we define consciousness, and is the term artificial intelligence itself nothing more than an egocentric social construct? Should we be talking instead about alternative or applied intelligence? Whether they’re wiping our tears and fighting for justice or waging cybernetic warfare to wipe the human stain from our planet, these on-screen portrayals of humanoid robots touch at the heart of the human condition.

Gyros And Servos And Actuators, Oh My!

In spite of the extraordinary progress we've already made toward bringing something like Isaac Asimov's positronic brain to life, as it were, the road ahead is a treacherous one — littered with innumerable ethical quandaries, ideological issues, and unforeseen consequences. But for the glass-half-full crowd, there's plenty of cause for optimism. Recent developments in neural networks offer the promise of touch-sensitive prosthetics, which could significantly improve quality of life for amputees and paralytics, not to mention making mundane tasks like stirring sauces and stacking boxes a lot less odious.

Young children can now learn the basics of coding through interactions with programmable robot toys, and new applications for home automations and the so-called Internet of Things emerge on a daily basis. Computer-operated devices are now responsible for a dizzying assortment of mundane and repetitive tasks. They're patrolling and tidying our floors, sucking up detritus from our suburban swimming pools, simplifying meal preparation, and teaching communication skills. We're even invited to take the idea of embracing technology quite literally — snuggling up to it to help us sleep. What were once fantastical luxuries for the wealthy and privileged are increasingly accessible to the middle class.

While the apparent suicidal tendencies of a security droid may raise some worrisome questions, and living cogs in the industrial machine get understandably fidgety at the prospect of losing their jobs to actual drones, there’s no denying the appeal of a world in which package delivery doesn’t depend entirely on armies of living carriers braving snow, rain, heat and dark of night in the swift completion of their appointed rounds.

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Last updated on June 16, 2018 by Lydia Chipman

An itinerant wordsmith with a broad constellation of interests, Lydia Chipman has turned iconoclasm into a livelihood of sorts. Bearing the scars and stripes of an uncommon diversity of experience—with the notable exceptions of joining a religious order or becoming an artist—she still can’t resist the temptation to learn something new.

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