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Metaverse avatars and finger chewing puppies: the robots of CES 2022

A thumb being nibbled by the Amagami Ham Ham
(Image credit: Yukai Engineering)
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In-person attendance at CES 2022 may not have bounced back following last year’s digital-only event, but the in-robot presence was as impressive as ever.

While tech buzzwords like Metaverse and NFTs threatened to claim the spotlight, once again CES’ robots stole the show with gadgets ranging from human-like avatars to adorable nibbling critters.

Here are the robots you need to know about from this year's expo, starting off with one of the creepier designs we saw: Ameca.

Ameca 

Ameca is what sci-fi movies have taught us robots should look like - a robot-human hybrid that doesn’t look quite like either. 

By coupling human-like facial expressions with a plastic skull and gray skin, Ameca’s designers sought to create a life-like robot that's not as scary as the realistic-looking Mesmer robots (opens in new tab) the team also produces.

But if you're still a bit weirded out by the robot’s appearance you don’t need to worry - at least for now.

Ameca’s creators - Engineered Arts - see its current design as something of a prototype. In an interview with CNet (opens in new tab), Morgan Roe, director of operations at Engineered Arts, said that it’ll be at least 10 years before we have an expressive robot like Ameca walking among us.

In the meantime, please enjoy the impressive sense of humor (opens in new tab) Ameca displayed at CES.

Hyundai's Metamobility concept 

In 10 years we might also see the partnership between Hyundai and Boston Dynamics bear fruit. The companies hope to expand the physical capabilities of our Metaverse-filled future using what they call Metamobility systems.

To achieve this the pair will create physical robot avatars that will facilitate meaningful physical and digital interaction. In the Hyundai CES 2022 press conference (opens in new tab), an example was given where a presenter could be attending the United States show in-person but easily hop into the Metaverse to feed and hug their dog in South Korea by controlling their physical robot avatar.

We aren't sure if we should be impressed or a little concerned by these development plans. As we wait for this nightmarish reality to take shape we can at least be soothed by the best gadget from CES 2022: the Amagami Ham Ham.

Amagami Ham Ham 

A person sticking their finger inside the mouth of Amagami Ham Ham

(Image credit: Yukai Engineering)

We couldn’t create a robotics roundup for this year’s iteration of the tech expo without mentioning this oddball companion that is designed to playfully nibble on your finger.

Named for the ‘ham ham’ chewing noise it makes, this cute artificial critter was inspired by the play biting that pets and babies use to communicate non-verbally. Amagami Ham Ham’s creator’s hope is that its gentle nibbles will relieve stress and create a sense of “indescribable comfort".

We haven’t had the chance to try the Amagami Ham Ham (opens in new tab) for ourselves but it’s safe to say we’re intrigued. And while we’re not convinced we’ll enjoy having our finger chewed on we’re certainly willing to give it a try.

See & Spray 

Before you dismiss CES 2022’s robots as viral oddities to be marveled at, there were plenty of innovations unveiled that demonstrated the usefulness of robotics.

Take one of CES 2022’s Best of Innovation award winners in the Robotics category: the See & Spray from John Deere (opens in new tab)

Announced back in March 2021 the See & Spray still is a revolutionary tool that will reduce farmers’ herbicide use. By leveraging computer vision and machine learning this smart sprayer can target weeds with herbicide exclusively. Tests demonstrated it can reduce herbicide usage by as much as 80%.

A John Deere tractopr pulling the See & Spray robot across a field

(Image credit: John Deere)

This may not be as viral a sensation as the likes of Ameca or Amigami Ham Ham, but See & Spray is an incredibly useful device that can revolutionize farming practices - providing huge benefits to both farmers and the environment. 

Massage Robotics

Massage Robotics

(Image credit: Massage Robotics)

Bad backs and aching muscles are a decidedly human issue, one that a show like CES - when attended in person - can exacerbate. At home and at CES, we turn to humans and massage chairs for relief. 

However, giving massages is hard work and one masseuse handles the task differently than the other, not to mention that the work of those chairs is rather crude. Massage Robotics, with its Model Mr-01 dual-armed robotic massage table, thinks it can change all that.

Instead of a person standing beside the massage table, two robot arms gently push, prod, and roll over your body. They're AI and ML-trained, voice-activated, and can get their instructions from the cloud (you like the way they moved your muscles? store the routine in the cloud or share it with friends).

No word on pricing for the robot or a massage, but the robot is on-track to arrive later this year.

BLK Arc 

Beyond that, we’ve also seen several robotics developments this year. The most impressive is the Leica BLK Arc (opens in new tab), which won a Best of Innovation award too. It's not a robot but a laser scanning module that provides an autonomous way to capture 3D images of an environment.

The BLK Arc will allow robots to be even more efficient in environments where they may have to operate without a human companion, such as a disaster site that may be too dangerous for people to enter.

So while we're sure CES 2023 will have some of its own creepy robots that will keep us awake at night, we might also see some less scary models put this year's developments to good use.

Hamish Hector
Hamish Hector

Hamish is a Staff Writer for TechRadar (@Hamish_Hector (opens in new tab) on Twitter) and has been writing about tech for almost five years. He now lends his experience to cover news and reviews across everything on TechRadar (from Computing to Audio to Gaming and the rest). In his free time, you’ll likely find Hamish humming show tunes while building Lego or playing D&D with his mates.