Connected Objects

Buddy companion robot’s out to be your family’s best friend

editors-choiceThere’s a growing number of multi-function robots on crowdfunding sites. While some consumers may find a few of them, such as JIBO, too robot-like to warm up to, other consumers may find a few of them, including the Personal Robot, too creepy because of their attempts to seem human.

Buddy may avoid both of those problems because this new social robot that was designed to be a family companion is fairly cute. The robot’s face is featured on an integrated tablet and features two wide eyes and a small mouth that make it appear a  bit like a friendly cartoon character. Preliminary tests with the Institute for Children with Autism found that its kid-friendly appearance makes it a good companion for children with special needs, according to Buddy’s Indiegogo campaign.

The open-source, connected robot was also designed to be a modular platform that can be expanded with accessories that initially include a docking station, pico projector and an arms set. Using facial recognition, Buddy will remind family members of important events and also be on the prowl for potential dangers inside and outside the home. It can communicate wirelessly with other devices, including Nest and other smart home devices, via Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. Although its tablet is Android-based, its app will work with Android, as well as iOS and Windows mobile devices. The Buddy Classic Edition, shipping in July 2016, will cost $749 at retail, but there’s an attractive early bird price of $549. Its maker set a campaign goal of raising $100,000 by Aug. 12.

Buddy furthers the progression of agents from Siri to Amazon Echo to something that moves. It should be especially appealing to families with children. In any case,  at least some of its functionality may be most appealing to those with development skills. To use its software development kit, prior knowledge of 3D Unity, C++, C# and the JavaScript programming languages are all beneficial, its maker says. Beginners, however, should be able to create simple apps.


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