At big events like MWC, there's bound to be a number of companies showing off pretty interesting, and often weird, technology. Going around in some of the areas, especially some of the Asian booths, robots seem to be a relatively common kind of product, but most of them aren't very useful. We took a quick look at some of those on display - here's what they're like.
Let's start with what's clearly the most interesting one for home use, Temi. Now, Temi isn't a new name for those who've been paying attention. The robot was initially announced in 2017, and it was expected to go on sale by the end of 2018. It ended up launching in the United States at CES 2019, but for MWC, the company announced a partnership that will let it go live in Europe as well.
Temi is a pretty interesting robot - it's got a 10-inch screen that you can watch media on, and the speakers are pretty powerful too. You can play music from services such as Spotify on it, and apparently, the team is even working to implement Amazon's Alexa so you can control more of your home using Temi. There's also an SDK so that developers can build their experiences for Temi.
In addition to that, Temi can navigate your house and avoid obstacle thanks to its sensors, it can memorize places, and it can follow you around as long as you want it to. I was half expecting it to bump into me, but that didn't happen.
Another cool thing you can do with the Temi app is call into your robot from wherever you are. It's basically a video call, so you can just use it to call someone who's at home (or call someone from home, if you're using the robot itself), but on the phone, you'll actually get a virtual joystick that lets you manually navigate Temi. Of course, you can have it in follow mode and it'll just follow the caller around wherever they go. Even if no one is home, you can call into Temi to just take a look around and see if everything is alright.
Of course, for a base price of $2000 (it's currently $1500 on Temi's website), you'd expect it to be fantastic, and based on what I saw, it does seem pretty cool. For Europe and the Middle East, Temi partnered with Zorabots to launch the robot, which will cost €1999 excluding VAT. The initial shipment is 10,000 units, and you'll be able to buy it in Germany, France, the UK, Belgium, Netherlands, Italy, Spain, UAE, and Qatar.
CloudMinds doesn't make robots for consumers and instead focuses on potential business applications for them. Using artificial intelligence and the cloud, the company designs and trains robots to perform a variety of tasks. The robot that got the most attention at the show was the XR-1, which is the most articulate of the company's offerings, with a humanoid design.
CloudMinds' business, at least for now, is not only making the robots and providing the AI platform but also training the robots for its clients. I asked if the company would sell the robot to companies so that they can train them for their specific tasks, but for now, the business model has CloudMinds doing that. In the future, though, it could let companies train robots themselves.
There's a variety of applications here, and CloudMinds robots are already helping in areas such as retail. Of course, this is a product meant for businesses right now, and the price reflects that. At MWC, the robot is available for "just" $49,500, but its usual price would be $99,000.
However, CloudMinds' vision is for these robots to be helpful assistants at home in the future. The company believes that by 2025, this kind of humanoid robot will be affordable enough for the average household, and they could help with a variety of tasks at home. There's still a way to go for that to happen, but it would certainly be interesting.
You can learn more about the capabilities of the CloudMinds platform here.
Aside from those two, there are a few ones coming from countries like Taiwan and Korea, but their usefulness is questionable. LIKU is a "social robot", which means it can't really do a lot aside from dancing and posing for pictures. It does express feelings in a cute way through its eyes, but in terms of features, there isn't a lot to it. Then there are a few robots from Taiwanese companies such as NUWA Robotics, which makes an educational robot for children. As you'd expect, this isn't really available outside of specific regions, so it's not something many of us will be buying.
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