Friday, August 1, 2014

Romo: Convert your smartphone into a robot!

Just a few days ago, I wrote about a new personal robot called Jibo. It is a robot that is being developed by a team at MIT led by Dr Cynthia Braezeal. You can find my blog article here

After I wrote the article I was reminded of another such robot I had seen sometime ago on a TED video. The robot was called Romo and is very similar to Jibo. It is similar in the sense that it has no actuators (i.e. no hands) and has a cute face. Just like Jibo, it can turn around and can track you walking across the room. But unlike Jibo, it can actually move around as well. 

Romo: A smartphone powered robot

It is actually a smartphone sitting on a dock that can move. The dock can be instructed to move by the smartphone. In a sense, the smartphone is the head and dock is the body. The smartphone itself can tilt forwards and backwards. At the time of the talk, the robot can be remote controlled using an iPad and therefore used as a telepresence robot. You can see on the iPad what the robot can see remotely. You can move the robot using the iPad as the controller.

The face of the robot is cute and cartoonish. It can express a range of emotions via its face and its body. For instance, it can move backwards a bit and tilt backwards to express fear.

Romo is available now. All you need to buy is the dock for around 130 USD. You need to install the latest Romo App on your iPhone (4/4S/5/5C/5S) and dock it. Your robot will be ready.

In the TED talk, there was no demonstration of any autonomous behaviour. Like when Jibo can be given a task, say order Chinese food for two, and it does so by itself or when it can be commanded to take a picture. I believe such behaviours can be added to Romo too using the SDK provided. Same with capability of having a conversation. If Romo could exhibit autonomous behaviours such as these, it would be a better product than Jibo. Simply because, I can undock my phone, go to work and when I come back, dock it back in and I'll have a robot.

And if you want to buy one, here is where you can..

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