Did you know we received the word robot from the Czech word “robotnik” meaning slave? The word is fitting for the machines we’ve asked to endlessly compute algorithms for us and clean our floors. But exactly what a robot is has evolved from the days when robots were largely factory drudges. These days, robots can be as cute as pets, as efficient as a nurse or frightening enough to raise ethical questions. There are telepresence robots that we can send to work for us, humanoid robots that send us chillingly into the uncanny valley and of course, beer serving robots who are our friends in our laziest times.
Love them or fear them, we are a civilization obsessed with robots. So, I’m willing to bet you know more than one or two geeks in your life who would appreciate a robot themed gift this holiday season. Check out our epic list of ultimate robot gifts for the holidays:
1. Recycled Robot Ornaments
These little industrial ornament robots measure just 4-5″ tall and are completely eco-friendly, repurposed and up-cycled from salvaged, sawed and sanded lumbar scraps, scrap metal aluminum, recycled washers, nuts bolts, tacks, etc. The robots are spray-painted in red and speckled with cream paint. To preserve the industrial look, robots are partially painted with “dirty”-looking components, like nuts or washers.
➤ Buy here; 4 robots for $8.00.
2. My Robot Nation- Design Your Own Robot Collectible
My Robot Nation launched last week with an extremely cool way to model and 3D print your own robot collectible on the Web, with 9 billion possible combinations. Your robot is printed in full-color and it’s delivered to your doorstep. Check out the site’s limited edition holiday themes for your robot and the ability to send gift codes to others so they can design their own robot army at any time.
➤ Start designing robots here. They start at $17.99-$169.99, depending on size.
3. Romo: The Smartphone Robot
Romo is a smartphone robot, or a physical platform that turns your smartphone into a robot, developed by Romotive, a.k.a Peter Seid and Phu Nguyen. After a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign, the gents will be able to build their new robotics platform, which adds everything that the smartphone is missing like movement, accessories and the physical capabilities that a true robot needs.
“Unlike the lame single-purpose machines out there for sale today, our robots will also be able to learn, grow, and change, both by adding new hardware modules to the platform, and more importantly, by bring to people everywhere a true “app store” for robots, where robots can quickly gain functionalities based on the app they are running (and you can even code your own).”
-Peter Seid and Phu Nguyen
4. Robot 99 iPad 2 Cover
This beautifully made leather case is specifically designed for the iPad 2 and includes a flip stand, built-in magnetic closure and a camera hole cutout on the back with full access to all iPad 2 ports/connections.
➤ Buy it here $47.99.
5. Parrot AR.Drone QuadriCopter
The AR.Drone remote-control quadricopter can be controlled from the palm of your hand. This robot is packed with smart technology including two cameras, front-facing and bottom-facing, which stream live video to the screen of your tablet or smartphone. The AR.Drone can also be used in video games, such as AR.FlyingAce, a dogfight between two AR.Drones. Or you can just take it to the park and bother local hipsters on a sunny day.
➤ Buy it here $299.00.
While Sphero won’t ship til January 2012, this robo-present will be well worth the wait. Sphero is the first robotic ball that you control with a tilt, touch, or swing from your smartphone or tablet. Sphero comes with single and multi-player games that blend play into the virtual and real worlds. The company says, “It’s the ball evolved.”
➤ Buy it here $129.99.
7. Robot Tea Infuser
Who needs tea pots when you can have a tea-bot!? As a tea drinker with a robot obsession, this tea infuser had me at first sight. The retro robot comes with curving hinged arms that cling to the rim of your tea mug. To add tea, open up the bot by twisting its antennas. Once in hot water, the tea flavor flows through the perforations on both sides of its metal body. The robot tea infuser comes with a coordinating silver tray. Unfortunately, the clear mug doesn’t come with the infuser, so you’ll have to pick one up separately to show off your tea-bot.
➤ Buy here $14.99.
8. Wind-Up Salt and Pepper Robots
“Oh excuse me, could you please pass the salt?” has never been more fun than with these robotic salt and pepper shakers. Just wind them up and point them in the right direction to impress your salivating guest.
➤ Buy here $20.00.
8. Pleo Dinosaur Robot
Pleo, built by Emeryville, Calif.-based UGOBE, is a robotic replica of a one-week old Camarasaurus, a dinosaur from the late Jurassic period. The popular toy bot is the exact height of its pre-historic counterpart, learning and reacting to human touch. That strikingly lifelike behavior is the result of eight skin sensors, two microphones and an infrared and camera-based vision system. Pleo is cheaper than a puppy, doesn’t need to be walked, doesn’t trigger allergies and is more affectionate than the average cat. (N.B. Pleo does not like this upside down position.)
➤ Buy here $450.00.
9. WowWee’s Femisapien
Femisapien is WowWee’s gynoid model, which comes with a dash of artificial intelligence that any woman can admire. At just 9″ tall, Femisapien moves more fluidly than her male counterpart Robosapien and responds to touch, light and sound. The fembot can be programmed to perform routines of movements up to 80 steps long including dancing, waving and blowing kisses. She introduces herself, performs comedy routines, even hands out business cards. Femisapien can also control other WowWee robots like Robosapien via her infrared sensors. Talk about technology liberating women.
➤ Buy here $97.00.
MakerBot is a New York based startup that sells 3D printers, or “robots that make things”. The Makerbot has spawned a 3D printing revolution, dropping the price point on machines that cost tens of thousands of dollars to a paltry $750. Its newest product is the MakerBot “Thing-O-Matic,” which debuted at last year’s Maker Faire, is a 3D printer assembly line, printing item after item of thing after thing.
11. Bennett Robot Works
These industrial, handmade robots are made by local New York artist Gordon Bennett. Inspired by industrial designers Norman Bel Geddes and Raymond Loewy whose visions shaped the “Modern Age” of the 1940s and 1950s. Bennett’s robots are made from a variety of materials– some new and some found in junkyards. Each robot takes one month to build. These robots are quite serious works of art, not toys.
➤ Prices vary. Check the list here.
12. Rock Star Robot
This 4-foot tall Rock Star Robot is handmade from vintage picnic jugs, coffee thermoses, old vacuum cleaner tubes and other found objects. Like Bennett’s bots, this is no kids toy; the Rocking Robot, which doubles as an overgrown nightlight, is an artful study of mid-20th century American culture and design that will cost you more than what you’ve got on the floor of your front hall closet. Combining influences from rock ‘n’ roll, science fiction and the sleek “futuristic” design style of the era, artist Toby Fraley turns his own childhood love of robots into a unique work of art.
➤ Buy here to impress your dinner guests for $1,900.
13. Willow Garage’s PR2 Robot
One day, the roboticists at Willow Garage were thirsty, so they decided to teach their quick-learning PR2 robot a few tricks. When you want a beer, you just have to open a web interface, choose your preferred brew, and click the “Beer Me” button. The PR2 opens the refrigerator, scans its contents using image recognition software and retrieves a bottle of the correct kind, then brings it back to you. It can open the bottle as well. PR2 also knows how to fold laundry and play pool.
➤ Buy PR2 here. $285,000 for the standard edition; $400,000 if you want PR2 with two arms.
Don’t want to buy a brand new robot? Check out eBay’s vintage offerings for robots from the past here. And if you know of any awesome robot themed gifts we missed, please let us know in the comments!