Emerging Technologies

For the price of a smartphone you could bring a robot home

Taiwanese electronics manufacturer ASUS's Zenbo home robot. Image: REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

Jack Lynch
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Emerging Technologies

The big dream of consumer robotics has always been the in-home robot. In movies and television, friendly robots help with daily chores, talk and interact with their owners, and generally become a part of the family. Now, as reported by The Guardian, a new robot from Taiwanese company Asus could make the family robot an affordable reality. Its name is Zenbo – and at $599, it costs less than an iPhone 6S.

Zenbo operates on two wheels and has a round touchscreen “head” that extrudes from its top, complete with cameras. The robot can move independently, respond to voice commands, and even display emotions on screen. Its main functions are twofold: first, a mobile computer with voice recognition, a competitor to Amazon’s stationary Echo device or the new Google Home; second, as an aid to caregiving: Zenbo can entertain children with music, stories, and games, and can also remind seniors about medications or doctors appointments.

Zenbo’s closest competitor in the household robot space is SoftBank’s Pepper robot, which sells in Japan for $1,800 – more than three times the price of Zenbo. Like Zenbo, Pepper is a mobile, household robot with cameras, voice recognition and a touchscreen.

Countries with the most robots
Image: Bank of America Merrill Lynch

Zenbo’s affordable price could be the added boost that robots need to become a household fixture, and that could happen sooner rather than later. Asus debuted Zenbo at the Computex event in Taipei this week, and are hoping to make the robot available for purchase in time for the holiday season.

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