A droid in the family

Feeling a little guilty about working late? Wish you could spend more time with your kids? Well, now you can be in two places at once, if we’re to believe the claims ActivMedia Robotics makes for its latest innovation.

The company’s AmigoBOT e-Presence combines the power of the internet with a Mars-style Rover in an effort to bring you closer to loved ones, allowing you to see, hear and interact with them when you’re away from home.

Just connect to your robot over the Internet and set off round the house looking for them. If they’re anywhere on the same floor, you can find them, but, like the Daleks, AmigoBOT is thwarted by the staircase; so if they’re upstairs, play a sound or phrase to let them know you’re ‘home.’ The system consists of a mobile robot, a wirefree radio modem, a remote viewing camera and microphone system hardware and a number of specialised software tools for navigation, sonar obstacle avoidance, and behavioural programming.

According to its manufacturer, the robot can be used to provide a level of companionship that the telephone simply doesn’t allow; absent parents can play with their children, grandpa can join you at dinner, and, whilst you’re at work, the robot can keep your pets entertained by chasing them round the living room.

The system is operated via either your keyboard or joystick, through pointing and clicking your mouse at locations on a floor plan, or it can be instructed to wander around the house, avoiding obstacles detected by its eight far-reaching sonar range-finders.

With 10cm diameter wheels and motors with 19.5:1 gear ratio AmigoBot can climb over most sills or carpet edges and glides along at 1m/s. The integrated user I/O bus offers plenty of expansion capability and a 12V, 2.2 Ahr rechargeable battery provides over 2.0 hours of continuous use. 500-tick encoders allow it to keep track of its location on a floorplan of your home and manual-tilt colour camera, tracking and surveillance accessories let you see the world from a robot’s-eye view from your PC, or another networked device.

A number of custom accessories (thermal sensors, smoke/motion detectors, etc) are planned, and the company is keen to hear from anyone interested in collaborating on further features.