On the eve of Human-Robot-Interaction (HRI) becoming customary in our lives, the performance of HRI robotic devices remains strongly conditioned by their gearboxes. In most industrial robots, two relatively unconventional transmission technologies—Harmonic Drives© and Cycloid Drives—are usually found, which are not so broadly used in other industries. Understanding the origin of this singularity provides valuable insights in the search for suitable, future robotic transmission technologies. In this paper we propose an assessment framework strongly conditioned by HRI applications, and we use it to review the performance of conventional and emerging robotic gearbox technologies, for which the design criterion is strongly shifted toward aspects like weight and efficiency. The framework proposes to use virtual power as a suitable way to assess the inherent limitations of a gearbox technologies to achieve high efficiencies. This paper complements the existing research dealing with the complex interaction between gearbox technologies and the actuators, with a new gearbox-centered perspective particularly focused on HRI applications.