Last year's aptly named robot can do more than walk now.
At CES 2018, Ubtech unveiled a robot that could climb stairs and kick a soccer ball. Appropriately, this humanoid bot with legs was named Walker and Ubtech promised to add arms by the time it launched. Consider that promise kept. At CES 2019, the Ubtech Walker is sporting a brand new pair of limbs.
On display in a controlled demo space at the show, the bot can walk around a room while avoiding furniture. It can also grab an umbrella or a glass or water when prompted, bringing it to the host. It's pretty cool in concept. And by the time its ready, Walker should be able to learn its way around any home and be able to fetch items at your command.
Ubtech's working on voice recognition for Walker, but says it isn't using established digital assistants such as Amazon's Alexa or Google Assistant. The company will have a lot of work to do to prepare a comprehensive voice assistant platform and flesh out Walker's intelligence so it can quickly learn new homes and object locations. The demo is cool but it only works because Walker was preprogrammed to complete it.
To bring Walker to fruition, Ubtech is adding a number of sensors to help with balance and obstacle avoidance. The 4.75 foot tall Walker is supposedly able to navigate a variety of terrain, and can use hand-eye coordination to properly position objects at a variety of angles. It'll eventually be able to distinguish different objects and faces to help it learn both you and your home.
Ubtech hasn't announced a price or a release date for Walker. The company's Lynx robot was much simpler -- it had Alexa built in and could do simple dance moves and walk you through yoga poses -- but it cost $800 (approximately £565 or AU$990), so I'd expect Walker will be very expensive.
If the tech can live up to its promises, the cost might be worth it to some in order to have a functional Rosie the Robot picking up after you. Last CES, a robot called Aeolus showed similar ambition -- it could grab and remember objects and where they were supposed to go. Its coolest aspects were also very much in the prototype phase.
I'd love to see a humanoid robot actually fulfill the potential of the category. Walker might do it if the CES demo can become a reality.
Aside from robots in the home, Ubtech is also upgrading its restaurant assistant robot and bringing it to the US. Cruzr can be programmed to remember the specific layout of tables in a restaurant. It then uses its circular base with wheels to zip around to customers, who can punch in their orders onto the screen on its face. Cruzr is then smart enough to take that order to the proper person for preparation.
Cruzr will also use Ubtech's voice recognition software and has movable arms and hands -- though they won't be fit for carrying a hot cup of coffee. As of right now, Cruzr is meant to take orders, not distribute them. The new version offers more detailed interactions on the screen so customers can find what they want to order more easily. The upgraded bot is scheduled to roll out to Cruzr's original markets in Asia and Europe and launch in the US this year.
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