The little robot that caused a big stir when it hit crowdfunding site Indiegogo is now a retail reality. After passing its funding goal by some 300%, Riley, the AppBot, is now officially on sale at a number of retail outlets and on Amazon for US$229.
As homes get smarter and connectivity becomes the norm, it’s only going to be a matter of time before the average household counts some form of robot as a family member, and if that member happens to be Riley, then there’s a good chance that even the most cynical or doubting of visitor will soon feel at ease – if they notice him at all.
That’s because the little robot, which bears an uncanny resemblance to WALL-E, the titular star of Pixar’s 2008 feature-length animation, packs cuteness and cleverness into a compact app-controlled package.
Despite standing less than 10cm tall, Riley has an integrated night vision camera, a five-megapixel image sensor, motion detection, a loudspeaker and a microphone. The camera, which can stream live video to a smartphone, desktop or tablet also uses facial recognition technology so it’s not going to get spooked or send out an emergency call if it encounters the family pet or one of the kids during its patrol.
In fact, iPatrol, the company behind Riley, thinks that he will make a good robotic pet companion when owners are out at work. The two-way microphone isn’t just for telling intruders that the police have been called, it can also be used to reassure the dog that you’re coming home, soon. “Riley is not just a home-monitoring tool,” said company founder Rodney Lo. “Riley helps you feel like you’re in two places at once.”
And because its makers have opted for tank-like caterpillar tracks rather than wheels or legs, the little robot confidently maneuver over carpets, wooden and tiled floor and can even handle steep inclines.
Its equally compact lithium ion battery means that it can only patrol for 90 minutes at a time, but it is smart enough to automatically return to its docking station to recharge when power reserves are getting low.
“Riley is a smart and mobile companion that monitors your home with real-time video. Unlike most home-security devices, Riley is mobile and can travel on most any surface without getting stuck, thanks to its rugged tank treads,” explained Lo.
The only thing he can’t do is navigate on his own. But using a smartphone as a remote control to show him where to go or to set a path could be good fun for the kids.