Imaging Robots/Drones

Use your smartphone with the PadBot T1 and keep in touch

Telepresence technologies are usually marketed for business purposes, but also has huge potential for the home, connecting friends and family that may otherwise be separated. In this vein, a few telepresence robots that combine mobility and video chat capability have recently been seen in the crowdfunding circuit, all of which offer pretty similar functionality along with security monitoring.

What’s different about the PadBot T1 is that it connects to a smartphone using Bluetooth 4.0 in order to cut down on size and make it portable. This makes it a true telepresence machine for both home and work. The PadBot T1 itself features treads to make moving smooth, an anti-collision to avoid damage to it and to others, an anti-fall system to stay in one piece, and a built-in charger to keep the connected smartphone topped up.

Imaging Robots/Drones

The Moorebot robotic assistant leaves you wanting more

The applications for robots at home, work, and business make the idea of having robotic assistants compelling, but none thus far have been truly capable of combining a truly responsive interface with personality. The closest thus far may be Amazon’s Echo, but it doesn’t get across the illusion of emotion quite like most would like it to.

The team behind the Moorebot made sure that was its main priority, designing a small, charming robot with a single, blinking eye that learns quickly and can engage in light conversation with users. It was created to work in a variety of settings with customizable, upgradeable behavior. In a shop, it can serve as a greeter and customer service agent that can answer questions about inventory, a store layout, specials, and promotions. At work, it can send messages and remind users of important events, read notes and reports, keep track of the home from afar, record video emails, and even entertain in times of boredom. At home, it’s the consummate entertainer, singing, dancing and playing with kids.

Robots/Drones Tablet Accessories

EMotion helps move telepresence robotics into more affordable territory

editors-choiceTelepresence robots allow people who are away from home to check in on their pets and make sure burglars haven’t broken in. Regular viewers of the TV show The Good Wife know that telepresence robots can also be used to take part in office meetings when users are home sick or on a business trip. Such devices can also conceivably be used so that sick kids don’t miss important lessons at school. One major problem so far has been that these devices are too costly.

EMotion is designed to be a more affordable option for consumers who want a telepresence robot. The moving robotic device works in conjunction with iPads or Android tablets. Additional functions that can be done with it include video chatting with friends and family via services such as FaceTime or Skype. EMotion ships in June at $599, although early bird Kickstarter backers can get one for a pledge starting at about $178. Its makers hope to raise $48,146 by March 3.

Cell Phone Accessories

Rogo dock lets your smartphone run a smart home

Having a personal assistant in the home either means shelling out lots of money for someone to follow you around all day or going all in on some of the more experimental attempts to integrate robotics in the home.  Choosing either option overlooks the most powerful computing device in most people’s lives: the smartphone.

Rogo is a dock that uses the connectivity of a smartphone to power a range of applications aimed at giving users a true personal assistant in the home. All of Rogo’s apps are powered by a cloud platform and a conversational AI that users can speak to naturally. RogoTele is a telepresence app to keep users in touch with family or friends back home that takes advantage of the swiveling dock to track movement, while RogoChat is for all other times where message and event notifications will do.

Smart Home

JIBO robot puts pets to shame by taking pictures, ordering food, and more

The Premise. The dream of a household robot is so alluring because it falls somewhere between faithful pet dog and trusty, capable butler. Now that homes are more readily equipped with Wi-fi and several connected smart home devices, the perfect environment exists in which to bring in a truly sophisticated but accessible home robot.

The Product. JIBO, a robot that looks like a cross between a desktop fan and EVE from the Pixar movie Wall-E, seems to be the first step in blending functionality with companionship. Sitting cheerfully wherever he is placed, JIBO will learn faces and voices as he interacts with people around the house. As he continues to learn and develop, JIBO will be able to interact with household devices and services like lighting, voicemail, and email. JIBO also functions as a digital camera capable of taking photos and video and even as a telepresence robot during video calls. JIBO developers can create for him like any other platform, offering a variety of apps and features in the future.

The Pitch. JIBO’s pitch video shows the friendly robot blending in and being a part of the family, helping set up steamy dates over Chinese takeout and playing with kids inside blanket forts. Movie buffs might be a little unsettled by the simulated “first-person” JIBO scenes, which seem oddly similar to scenes from Terminator, but the device seems functional and friendly enough for now. The development team behind JIBO needs to raise $100,000 to finish the internal design and testing of JIBO.

The Perks. A JIBO Robot along with the developer’s JIBOAlive Toolkit will cost backers $499, although the device won’t ship until February 2016. If that sounds like too long to wait, some charity will get one sent a little sooner. Those who pledge $799 will get a JIBO in December 2015 along with donating an identical unit to the Boston Children’s Hospital. Likewise, a $899 donation will offer the same perk albeit with the Developer Edition.

The Potential. JIBO seems like a great digital assistant and communication device at its base, with the promise of more to come. JIBO’s disposition seems to be bright and cheerful enough to dissuade any fears of the robot uprising, and the lack of mobility emphasizes this although limits something that would make JIBO a huge leap forward for personal robotics. Those looking for a friendly face in the home that doesn’t need to be walked or cleaned up after will be excited to rush out and make friends with a JIBO as soon as possible.

Tablet Accessories Tech Accessories

PadBot lets your iPad roam around remotely to put you in two places at once

The Premise. The promise of robots that can replace humans is still thankfully just a pipe dream, but for now we have telepresence robots to at least be places that aren’t a possibility for one reason or another. Unfortunately, these devices are often very expensive for just the average, everyday person.

The Product. PadBot takes the idea of the telepresence robot and cuts down on costs by using a standard tablet computer as the brain and display of the device. Compatible with Android and iOS tablets for now, PadBot is easily controlled through a smartphone when it comes to driving, and can also angle and shift its display as necessary. The robot also has sensors on the base of the device to prevent being knocked over or bumping into things it can’t see. Designed to be simple to use on both sides of the interaction, PadBot has an intuitive, simple app and doesn’t get underfoot in the physical world at the same time.

The Pitch. Seeing the PadBot in action, developer Inbot Tech shows off a few basic ways the device can be of use. Whether collaborating at meetings in the office or attending birthday parties for out of town family, the PadBot seems versatile enough to tackle any indoor challenge (and even some light outdoor tasks). Inbot Tech needs $30,000 for production, molding, and testing.

The Perks. Starting in December, backers can get their very own PadBot for $329, iPad not included. Multiples can be purchased at higher tiers for families or retailers.

The Potential. Telepresence robots are exciting ways to interact with workplaces and loved ones remotely, and the market space is beginning to grow to reflect that. PadBot is essentially a high-end Telemba, opting for a dedicated robot instead of co-opting a Roomba, though both rely on a tablet for their “brain.” On the other hand, PadBot is significantly cheaper than similar products like the Double offered by Double Robotics, although the Double Robotics robot looks more stable and high-quality. This looks like an easy to set up, easy to use telepresence robot that offers fewer necessary components and a very attractive price point. Offices may want to invest in a couple for telecommuters, while the end user may have a harder time justifying the purchase.