Companies create home robots with personality

More than half of young influencers are interested in robotics, and consumer electronics companies are innovating to meet new demand. Though there aren’t yet robot housekeepers à la Rosie in The Jetsons, more AI-powered devices are being designed to feel like part of the family.


Like a lovable hybrid of Amazon Echo and a Roomba vacuum cleaner, Kuri is a buddy robot that can answer voice commands and complete IFTTT tasks while moving throughout a consumer’s home. Though Kuri recognizes human directives, it communicates through sounds, movement, and facial expression rather than words. He uses Bluetooth to connect with mobile devices, has a camera for capturing images, and employs multiple sensors to navigate gracefully on a three-wheel base. The playful robot was designed by a longtime Pixar animator and is meant to be a companion first, assistant second.


U.K.-based startup Emotech thinks Olly has a hook to differentiate it from the current robot-like speaker devices dominating the market: it builds a unique personality based on its interactions with users. Olly completes tasks on-command similar to other smart home robots, but it also learns users’ routines and offers additional information and suggestions based on past interactions. It can also predict recurring behaviors. Olly’s cylindrical form swivels in its base, rotates toward human voices, and displays different colored lights, creating a lifelike effect. Emotech predicts Olly will be available for purchase sometime this year.


Named after Iron Man’s fictional AI machine, Jarvis is Mark Zuckerberg’s new in-home AI program. Giving Siri a run for her money, Zuckerberg’s iteration of the digital personal assistant completes the basic tasks of a smart home robot, such as playing music and turning off the lights, but it also goes further. Imitating Morgan Freeman’s smooth cadence, Jarvis supplies Zuckerberg with clean shirts, makes his toast, and has a sardonic sense of humor. Though it’s unlikely that Jarvis will be available to the public anytime soon, it’s personable nature could give it a competitive advantage in the growing home robotics market.