Remember “Rosie” from the old animated sitcom The Jetsons? Rosie was the Jetsons’ snarky, but fun loving household robot that did the cleaning, watched the kids, and even fed Astro. Flash forward a few decades and a few major leaps in technology and now you can have your very own Rosie – well, the name is BUDDY actually. Launched on Indiegogo July 7 – BUDDY is a social and mobile robot designed specifically as a family companion.
Video: Indiegogo – BUDDY
BUDDY cruises around on wheels, has a touch screen face, and whirls around your home assisting you in your daily life tasks, entertains the kids, helps the elderly, connects you to your family and friends and even guards your home. It also offers a “Special Needs” pack that uses specialized software to help children with autism to learn, communicate, interact, and be more autonomous. And if you want it to complete even more tasks, you have the option to grow BUDDY. The mighty robot’s platform is based on an open model for developers, even novice ones. The software development kit (SDK) can run in Windows and Android environments.
Photo: Indiegogo BUDDY
The creators behind this dynamic family robot is French company Blue Frog Robotics. Buddy is the brainchild of Blue Frog’s CEO, Rodolphe Hasselvander whose 20 years in the field of robotics led him to this amazing creation and vision. I had a chance to speak to another member of the team, Maud Verraes, Blue Frog’s Chief Marketing Officer. I asked about the inspiration behind BUDDY, fund raising challenges, and their future plans for a human size, semi-humanoid mobile robot.
VS: What inspired your Team in creating BUDDY?
MV: From day one our goal has been to make advanced robotic technologies and life-enhancing robots that are affordable and available to the open market. BUDDY’s likeness was inspired by the great science fiction movies, like “Star Wars” and the robots that were such a big part of these films. We also found inspiration from Wall-e and other cartoon characters that rocked our childhood. We also had a desire to make robots that will help us to live a better life.
VS: There are other social robots on the market like Pepper, Jibo and Maya – what separates Buddy from the other ones out there?
MV: BUDDY is mobile, extremely easy to use, scalable from both a hardware and software perspective, is completely based on open source development, and he’s really cute! BUDDY generates empathy and an emotional connection almost instantaneously. There is something about him, something a bit magical, that makes people feel affection for him. We invested significant resources to ensure that our companion robot would be seen as friendly and non-intimidating. This is a very important consideration as more and more families begin to welcome companion robots into their families. BUDDY is more humanoid than Jibo, but much less intrusive than Pepper. BUDDY bridges the gap between the two and at a very attractive price.
VS: What were some challenges your team faced when creating BUDDY?
MV: Issues like price, the development platform, the user interface and consumer acceptability in terms BUDDY’s appearance all required significant resources in addition to the overall challenge of developing a simple, reliable, open source, mass market product that can evolve easily and effectively.
VS: Any advice for new entrepreneurs in helping them get through the initial stages of raising funds to support their product?
MV: One piece of advice is to not neglect your marketing/PR budget as part of any crowdfunding campaign. For a successful crowdfunding program, you have to get the word out. Also, conceive a product which best responds to the needs of your consumers. And learn how to best present it to them, especially if your product is a disruptive – like a companion robot! Listen to your customers, meet with them early and truly try to understand what they want and do it often. Last but not least, choose a crowdfunding platform that aligns with the type of product you are offering and the community you are targeting.
VS: What is the future for Blue Frog Robotics? Anything exciting in the pipeline?
MV: We are working on robots that will arrive in our homes in 15 years as true humanoid robots. One of our prototypes is called SAMI, a human size semi-humanoid mobile robot that is autonomous or can be tele-operated via a Kinect2 and Oculus rift glasses. SAMI could be used for personal assistance to allow a user to assist a person remotely (elderly, disabled people) or to operate remotely in a hostile environment —nuclear maintenance, chemical industries, etc.
A user will be able to remotely control SAMI (head, arms, hands, torso, mobile base) while located up to 500 km away, all while receiving visual feedback. The humanoid robot can be controlled in two different ways. The first is by Kinect 2 sensor. Whatever movements the person makes, the sensor registers and the robot copies in real time. Then, with an EGG headset, the operator can tell SAMI to move its arms right or left and various other movements just by thinking it. The future is very exciting.
Blue Frog Robotics is truly democratizing the field of robotics with the BUDDY companion and already is 284% funded on Indiegogo. Now the loveable robot can be yours for a pledge of $649. Check out Indiegogo soon, as BUDDY plans to ship by Winter 2015. A special thank you to CMO Maud Verraes and CEO Rudolphe Hasselvander for taking time to speak with TheToggle.