Seems the wait is almost over for people who’ve been dreaming for years of smart, talking companion robots. Jibo was a big deal when the crowdfunding campaign introduced the futuristic social robot about a year ago. To date, Jibo has raised a monumental $3.7M in crowdfunding.
Now there’s the announcement of Buddy, a companion robot offered by the French robotics company Blue Frog. The response to the campaign has been huge. In just six days, enthusiastic supporters have pledged over $185K, which is already $85K more than the $100K campaign goal.
People really want a personal robot! Well, at least the techie early adopter types on crowdfunding sites want one. It remains to be seen how large the market for these products will be, but if they can deliver on even some of their promises, there’s bound to be demand.
Jibo and Robotbase’s robot are both still on preorder, meaning neither robot is shipping yet. Blue Frog says that Buddy’s design is complete and the Indiegogo campaign is to raise money to start production. The Indiegogo page indicates that the first Developer kit version of Buddy will ship by the end of the year, with the Classic Edition shipping in May 2016.
Blue Frog is building the robot, which moves around on wheels, on an open framework using the Unity3D gaming platform and OpenCV. They seem to be courting developers to join the Buddy Developer Program and expand Buddy’s capabilities.
Out of the box, Buddy is said to have speech recognition, text-to-speech, human and object detection, recognition, and tracking, real time house tracking, remote control, and autonomous obstacle avoidance. The demo video shows Buddy interacting with people in a conversational way, answering questions, helping children with homework, reading stories, playing hide and seek, and performing a whole range of other tasks to support the family.
Buddy is like a cross between Amazon Echo and R2-D2. We live in exciting times! It’s clear from Buddy’s design that he’s meant to be cute and cuddly. His shape is reminiscent of E.T. You half expect to hear him say something about phoning home.
Like so many others, I’m anxious to see this little robot guy (and Jibo and the others) come to life. The first iteration of Buddy will understand both French and English. No matter what the language, the possibilities seem limitless.