A Taiwanese Company Has Created a Robotic House-Elf With a Tablet for a Face

Tuesday, 20 February 2018 - 11:48AM
Technology
Robotics
Gadgets
Tuesday, 20 February 2018 - 11:48AM
A Taiwanese Company Has Created a Robotic House-Elf With a Tablet for a Face
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Image credit: Robelf
Robotic home assistants like SoftBank's Pepper and the ASUS Zenbo all claim to be the future, but there was always something about them that seemed oddly... Familiar. Their cheery demeanor, their diminutive size, their love of helping with small tasks... Where have we seen this before? Robelf has put a tiny, plastic finger on it: they're basically house-elves. Yes, the same ones from Harry Potter. In addition to its name, Robelf even has a little picture of Dobby handing it a sock on its Indiegogo page. So what is Robelf?

Robelf is a small rolling robot with a tablet for a face, designed to act as an all-in-one digital assistant, home surveillance system, and tutor. Some of its features include voice and face recognition software (allowing it to identify strangers in your home), infrared and ultrasound sensors to navigate around obstacles, and microphones that let it pick up voice commands. Here's the promo video for it:



A couple things become immediately clear from the above video. First: Robelf's face bears an uncanny resemblance to the 2005 movie Robots. (The second, and unrelated: good acting is a lot harder than it seems.) Like other robots designed to work closely with humans, Robelf was designed to be cute – but its stilted voice and unsynchronized lip movements make it vaguely unsettling. The alternative might be to make it completely faceless, like Temi, but that has its own creep-factor.

As for applications, Robelf actually seems pretty helpful. It can suggest news, help you cook, tell you the weather, play videos, and follow you around. The integration with home security gives it an edge over other personal robots but, overall, it seems like a regular tablet mounted on a voice-controlled smart hub – like Alexa or Google Home – would be a better bet. That is, unless you're really, really excited about having a tiny robot rolling around your place. (We can understand that.)

You can learn more about Robelf here.
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