Meet a wheel-shaped robot that wants to be your security guard

  • TECH
  • Thursday, 07 Aug 2014

THE GUARDIAN: Jr., from Roambotics

OK, it's not quite Robocop, but Jr. will be able to roll around your apartment, house or office, constantly scanning to make sure all is well and letting you know as soon as it thinks it isn't.

Jr. will come with audio sensors and integrated cameras plus almost 360-degree vision and will be able to connect to the home network or to other devices using Bluetooth.

Rather rely on someone to guide it via a remote control, Jr. will learn to adapt to its surroundings and develop a map so that it will be able to navigate around the home without crashing into walls or furniture.

"Our primary advantage over existing security systems is that there is no invasive installation, our software uses machine learning to get smarter over time, and the device does not remain in a static, predictable position," says Roambotics CEO and co-founder Scott Menor.

For the moment, Roambotics will be focusing on developing Jr.'s home security skills, but the long-term goal is to build on the robot's features and uses over time so that it will become as much a part of the home as the washing machine or television.

For example, the high-quality cameras that will initially search for signs of a break-in or disturbance could just as easily be used to spontaneously capture those Kodak moments around the home.

"Our goal is to make a personal robot that is an integrated part of your household," says Menor. "We want Jr. to look and feel robust -- like an appliance that belongs in your home -- and to be intuitive and useful."

Roambotics is not the only company to have set itself such an ambitious goal. Jibo, the brainchild of social robotics pioneer Dr. Cynthia Breazeal, also wants to be the first robot member of the family. 

Launched as an Indiegogo campaign on July 16, the project has pulled in nearly US$1.5mil (RM4.8mil) in pledges to date (over 10 times its US$100,000 (RM321,000) funding target.

Unlike Jr., Jibo can't move freely around the home but it will respond to natural voice commands and have a tablet-like display that doubles as a face.However, what both robots have in common is that they are still technically in the development stage.

Jibo's builders are targeting a 2016 launch and as for Jr., it has just won the Proto Labs Cool Idea! award, which offers companies with an interesting or intuitive product access to the funding and expertise necessary to get it to market, quickly.

However, while Proto Labs' backing will get Jr. onto the market sooner, rather than later, there is currently no fixed date as to when that will be or how much Jr. will cost when he's ready to make his first security patrol.—©AFP/Relaxnews 2014 

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