Ubtech Robotics Lynx review: The versatile Lynx robot has charm, but its appeal ends there
When I first started testing the Ubtech Lynx, the friendly looking bot piqued the curiosity of everyone in my office. All of my coworkers wanted to see it in action and play with it. We're all adults, but Lynx has a way of activating a childlike fascination, perhaps because it looks like a child itself. Functioning, consumer-ready robots are just now becoming a reality, and Ubtech deserves a lot of credit for creating the dancing, flexible, Alexa-enabled Lynx. Lynx is cool in concept and in reality, it works just fine. That's high praise for a product in this very young field.
However, don't take that high praise as a recommendation that you go out and buy Lynx. You almost certainly shouldn't fork over the $800 necessary to purchase this novelty toy. I recommend admiring Lynx from a distance as all of its tricks wear thin quickly, and after a day of joyful playing, you might be left wondering what you're supposed to do with it. If you have the money to spare and just really want to say you own a robot, go ahead. Otherwise, wait for one that actually does something a little more useful before making the splurge.
The many talents of Lynx
Alexa's the same digital assistant built into the popular smart speaker the Amazon Echo . Thanks to Alexa, Lynx can do almost everything the Echo can do including control your smart home , set a reminder, tell a joke, search the web and much more thanks to Alexa's ever growing list of skills.
You can also pat Lynx on the head to wake up Alexa, in addition to just saying the wake word "Alexa." You can now find Amazon's digital assistant built into a wide variety of gadgets from light switches to smoke detectors to refrigerators. Lynx is definitely the most humanoid Alexa gadget. I eventually found its design cute, but you might easily be intimidated by its resemblance to the cybermen from "Doctor Who."
Beyond what Alexa can do, Lynx has a security camera built in and a few cool extras up its sleeve:
- You can activate surveillance mode and Lynx will use its passive infrared sensor to detect movement, record the triggering event and alert you.
- Lynx can dance, wave and perform a number of other gestures on command.
- You can control Lynx remotely with the app via Avatar mode.
- Lynx can take a picture on command. It'll even turn its head and find your face.
- Lynx can teach you yoga moves and guide you through an exercise routine.
You can command Lynx to do any of those tasks with the app, or issue a voice command through its Alexa skill. Simply say, "Alexa, ask Lynx to…" and you can tell it to turn, walk, dance or be your yogi. Most of its functions are pretty commonplace for a smart home gadget, but its role as a yoga instructor is pretty unique.
If you're interested in an Alexa-enabled robot that can help you exercise, you can buy Lynx right now on Amazon for $800. For now, Lynx is only available in the US, but that price converts to approximately £565 or AU$990.
All together, a smart home robot with Alexa built-in that can monitor your home and teach you to exercise sounds pretty awesome. Lynx even performs each of its individual functions admirably, but take a closer look at each of its main abilities and you'll see why I don't actually recommend a purchase of this admittedly cool bot.
Securing the smart home
Other than its yoga and exercise routines, you can easily replicate everything else Lynx does for much less than the cost of Lynx and get much better versions of Lynx's smart home features in the process.
For an Alexa-enabled smart speaker, I recommend the $50 Amazon Echo Dot . Lynx was mostly reliable when I gave a command, but the Dot heard me more often from further away. The Dot also plugs into your own speakers so it can deliver sound quality that's better than the tinny music Lynx plays.
For a smart home security camera, the $120 (converts to £85, AU$150) Amazon Cloud Cam offers a full HD live feed and prompt notifications. The $200 (£139, AU$319) Nest Cam is another good option that works with a lot of other smart home devices.
Lynx's skills as a smart home cam are pretty rudimentary. You can toggle surveillance mode with the app or schedule it to turn on at certain times of the day. You can't customize motion zones or particular types of motion to watch for. Ubtech even claims Lynx has "facial recognition," but that only means it can find your face when it's taking a picture. Lynx can't use that info to send you people-specific notifications like the Netatmo Welcome .
In theory, Lynx should have an advantage over stationary cams given that it's mobile, but this bot can't do anything out of the ordinary like seek out strange sounds. In fact, even when it's supposedly walking forward, it's really just shuffling its feet and moving an inch or two.
Lynx is battery powered, but the battery only lasts for a couple of hours of light use. You can use avatar mode to look at something specific or talk to your family when you're out and about, but again, these features are readily available on lots of other smart home cams. Check out our best list here.
If you're interested in a robot to help out in your smart home, I'd recommend you either wait for an upcoming bot like Kuri or Buddy that will actually be able to use its mobility, or get a Dot and a good security cam. Buy the Dot and the Amazon Cloud Cam together for $170, and you still have an extra $630 you can spend on other toys to entertain the family.
Calling it a yogi is a stretch
Watching Lynx do yoga is particularly impressive. The bot bends and stretches in a number of different ways while talking you through each pose. Doing the poses along with Lynx even made me sweat a little as a beginner, so Lynx could have value as a toy that'll fool your family into getting a little exercise while having fun.
Lynx will also lead you through an exercise routine where it will tell you to do simple activities like jumping jacks for 30 seconds. Disappointingly, it won't actually do jumping jacks with you, it just sets a timer and tells you what to do next when you're done.
Like the rest of the features of Lynx, the workouts and yoga routines are fun as novelties, but don't have enough substance to them to be actually useful. You definitely don't want to spend the money on Lynx thinking it'll replace your yogi or your personal trainer.
For one thing, Lynx only knows a handful of exercises and stretches. The yoga and exercise routines don't seem to be structured with any rhyme or reason. You can ask for help if you don't know how to do an upcoming drill, but the verbal instructions don't offer much clarity. Particularly with the exercises, I'd imagine you could get lost easily. The yoga routine is a little better since Lynx does the stretches with you, but though Lynx is flexible for a robot, the poses he strikes aren't perfect examples of how your human body should work.
You can scroll through the app to see pictures of the proper poses, but that sort of defeats the purpose of having the robot guide you in the first place. So Lynx doesn't offer much depth or variety, and it also doesn't give clear instructions. In the best case scenario if you actually want to use Lynx to teach you yoga or help you work out, you'll get bored quickly. In the worst case scenario, you'll try a new stretch or exercise without using the proper form and hurt yourself.
If you want to do either activity from the comfort of your home, you can find lots of videos on Youtube for free. Again, it's fun to watch Lynx work through its poses, but I'd recommend not taking Lynx seriously as a yoga and exercise instructor.
The day I started testing Lynx, I was amused that all of my coworkers wanted to see it in action. Ubtech's made something cool here, and I'll be watching the company's future inventions with great interest. They even debuted a robot at CES that could actually walk instead of just shuffle like Lynx. Even though Lynx doesn't have much mobility, it's certainly a fun gadget, but it's definitely not a practical one, especially not for $800.
You can easily replicate its smart home functions more effectively for less, and it's not ready to carry the mantle as your yogi or personal trainer. Because its tricks wear thin quickly, each of my coworkers found other things to do after a few minutes with Lynx. Lynx is that toy you were ecstatic to receive as a kid that you played with endlessly for the first day you owned it, only for it to sit on a shelf and collect dust for the rest of its life.