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Waiting for Amazon Astro: the other home robots we’ve all wanted

Waiting for Amazon Astro: the other home robots we’ve all wanted

Recently Amazon announced Starthe smart home robot designed to be an Alexa on wheels equipped with 10-inch touchscreen and that will follow you everywhere and move around the house independently. Although it may seem a bit creepy for some, the Astro robot has already won the hearts of many users who can’t wait to buy it, perhaps because it resembles the little robots of science fiction films. Amazon’s Astro, in any case, it is not the only product of its kind that arrives on the marketHere are some smart robots that have made their mark (and many of you wished you could find under the Christmas tree).

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Smart home robots: AIBO, Sony’s little dog

Aibo from Sony it was really a forerunner of home robots, if we think it was marketed in 1999. In those years the technology was not at all advanced as now, in fact Aibo seemed to come from the future, able to do things that we humans could not even conceive of. More than a robot useful for carrying out actions, like those of today, Aibo was mainly a life partner.

Sony has managed to create a perfect product to win the hearts of consumers. Indeed the puppy’s personality changed as he got older and the character would change based on interactions with the owner. In short, as an adult he behaved according to how he was treated. If the consumer had treated it right, Aibo would have been active and playful, otherwise it would have been extremely lazy sleeping all day.

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Some people and families have formed a true emotional connection with Aibo, as they would with a biological pet. It was also held a group funeral for robot dogs that broke after Sony stopped repairing them.

There have been several iterations of Aibo over the years. Sony announced a new version of Aibo in 2017 and it appears that it is still available for purchase for $ 2899.

Pepper, the robot assistant used for customer service

Pepper, released in 2014, was Softbank’s version of a friendly robot assistant. It has a lot more semblances humanoids compared to other robots because he had to be friendly and he had to be used for customer service. In fact, Pepper was mainly placed in shops and airports, as an advertising billboard or as a way to greet and help people.

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When it was announced by Softbank, it was presented as a robot able to understand human emotions and take care of the children. Physically, she had arms and wheels with which to move, as well as a screen that she could use to display some information. He could speak as many as 15 languages and has been exploited in several global events.

Sadly, in 2020, Softbank fired several employees in its global robotics division and stopped production of the Pepper robot. Softbank claims that Pepper is not dead – he just decided not to make more of it. Perhaps because the expectations were really high (in some advertisements it was seen that it comforted sad people) and it was too ambitious a project.

Smart robots: Asus Zenbo, a tablet that follows you and controls your smart home

Zenbo was announced in 2016 and is a robot equipped with wheels and a tablet positioned in place of the face, through which it is possible control the smart devices in your home. It has many features in common with Amazon’s Astro: it can act as a security guard; contact people for help in case of a fall and view recipes and videos on your tablet.

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However, it’s hard to actually find proof of its existence – there are no devices for sale on eBay, and Asus’ support site doesn’t seem to remember the Zenbo. In the United States, for example, it never arrived, and on YouTube there is an unboxing video shot in Malaysia, probably one of the few countries where Asus has actually sold the robot.

Anki Vector and Cosmo

We can say that these robots are i most adorable ever gone out, thanks to the eye animations that make them really cute. Cosmo and the successor Vector they play with the user, dance together to the rhythm of music and express their emotions through animated eyes. They have a built-in voice assistant but the core of it all is that they are cute and win everyone’s heart: they walk around the desk moving their little arm that simulates a forklift.

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Although Anki had strong sales and financing in 2018, the company subsequently went out of business the following year. In 2020, Digital Dream Labs bought Anki’s assets and announced plans to revive the robots. Whether this will be successful remains to be seen.

A very similar robot is Emo, considered the heir of Anki Vector, an autonomous robot that moves around the environment avoiding obstacles, plays with users and interfaces with the smart home via Alexa.

MarsCat, a full-fledged cat

The MarsCat it’s like a cat version of the dog Aibo and its Kickstarter launched in late 2019. Its creators, a company called Elephant Robotics, claim that the robokitty will play with cat toys, accept scratchers and respond to commands such as “come here”. In theory users should also be able to program MarsCat on their own since its brain is a Raspberry Pi.

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The latest update on MarsCat’s Kickstarter page was earlier this month and it says the cats have been shipped. Despite this, only two users claim to have gotten one (and one says his is broken).