Zenbo the household robot promises to make all your science fiction dreams come true, with this lovable little guy sitting somewhere between BB-8 from Star Wars and Wall-E. Made by computing giants ASUS, Zenbo is designed to help around the house while also offering more than his fair share of fun and friendship. While Zenbo is not going to help you keep the house clean or cook a meal, he can move, see, speak, hear, and adapt to your preferences using proactive artificial intelligence.
According to the official ASUS media release, “Our ambition is to enable robotic computing for every household... As a home care assistant, he proactively provides convenient, spoken reminders of important information, such as doctor’s appointments, medication and exercise schedules, and anything else that needs to be remembered." In a video demonstration, Zenbo proved he can read out a food recipe, remind people to take their medication, and facilitate a video call through his own display. Zenbo is also designed for good old-fashioned fun, with this robot able to sing songs, dance to music, and tell stories to children.
While Zenbo has been designed to meet the needs of everyone, extra attention has been given to elderly users: "Zenbo also monitors the home for emergency situations - such as falls - and immediately responds to them by notifying specified family members on their smartphones, no matter where they are... When they receive an emergency notification, family members can remotely control Zenbo to move nearby and use Zenbo’s built-in camera to visually check on their loved one.” There has been some criticism over this functionality, however, with medical organisations questioning the reliability of activity data recorded by robots and wearable devices.
While Zenbo is still a long way from C3PO-style, robot-butler functionality, ASUS have overcome some of the technical challenges faced in the field of robot development. Zenbo works through the integration of voice-activated commands, with cameras, an internet connection, and a touchscreen. This allows the little guy to see what's going on around him, recognise faces, take photos, make video calls, and provide home security monitoring. While he can't vacuum or do the dishes, Zenbo can act as a moving stereo and entertainment unit that follows you around while you're doing the household chores.
According to ASUS, Zenbo comes with a built-in library of stories, including an interactive encyclopaedia for teaching children. With a variety of entertaining voices, the ability to hear and respond to questions, and the ability to express emotions through facial expressions, Zenbo can learn and adapt to different domestic situations. Connectivity is a big part of the Zenbo philosophy, with the robot able to control lighting and other smart home devices and interact with connected online services. While ASUS have not announced a release date just yet, we do have a price, with the unit set to sell for US$599 or roughly NZ$843.
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