I ordered my first robot last week, a Roomba vacuum cleaner robot - my only "black Friday" purchase, prompted by an email offering the little device for $139. At that price I figured it was worth a try (I opted for the cheap but slow free shipping, so it hasn't arrived yet). Welcome to the future, dust bunnies!
While we are still a long way from Spielberg's A.I. robots, there are some cool developments in the lab. This article in MIT Technology Review discusses a "robo helper" prototype called STAIR (pictured) at Stanford University that can navigate around the office, understand some spoken commands, and recognize and grasp objects, even figuring out how to grasp unfamiliar objects. The video clip where a researcher says "STAIR, please fetch the stapler from the lab" is pretty amazing, though only the command and delivery parts of the clip are in real time (apparently it takes STAIR quite some time to figure out what to do). I also like this clip (streaming WMV, 15 MB) of STAIR unloading a dishwasher. This clip runs at 2x including the sound, so the researchers' comments sound like the Chipmunks or maybe something out of a Star Wars.