An ode to CES 2020's cute (and creepy) robots that never were

CES 2021 is cancelled, which is good and bad news for the next wave of service bots bound to live and die on the show floor.

If CES has anything, it’s ambition. While the exhibition (which has already been cancelled due to COVID-19) can be a momentous launch for some brands, other products fizzle out of the conversation almost immediately.

That last bit is especially true for service robots.

Over the years, the adorable, somewhat unnerving robotic helpers have remained a staple of the tech show — but, that’s just about the only place you’ll see them.

Unless you live in Japan, where robots (particularly Softbank’s Pepper) have already carved out their own unique presence in the workforce, with mixed results, chances are service bots aren’t a part of your daily life.

Some hotels here do have robots, but this type of automation — at least in the U.S. — is nothing near what CES might have you assume.


This past year, service bots of all sizes speckled CES 2020, such as this slew of systems from South Korea's Hancom Group and the usual spectacle from Russian startup Promobot.

And, as is often the case, many didn't work. When we visited CES 2020 earlier this year many bots were in the process of being rebooted or unable to complete basic functions due to connectivity issues.

Pretty sure we accidentally irked this one...

This offering, PuduTech's BellaBot was one we genuinely wanted to see out in the world PuduTech is gearing its efforts toward disinfecting bots at the moment.

I don't think we're alone in saying this is the first and last time we've seen bots like this.

Other robotic companions like Canbot system danced the day away at CES 2020 while its partner's carcass recharged offstage. That's the most action this bot has seen all year unfortunately.

There is, of course, hope for service robots, especially during a pandemic when human contact is considered a liability. At the moment however, bots that service people in their homes that aspire beyond the mold of speaker-bound voice assistants mostly end up mostly being toys.

And we do love our toys.