It may look like a one-eyed trash can, but Nxrobo calls its Big-i a "personal robot butler." Combining the features of domestic robot, home automation, and personal assistant that learns and adapts to its owner's behavior, the multi-function automaton was recently unveiled at Pepcom DigitalFocus in New York by its inventor, Dr Tin Lun Lam.
Standing 76.5 cm (39 in) tall and weighing in at 12kg (26.5 lbs), the Big-i is basically a cylinder covered in cushioned fabric and topped by a dome with a large, mobile camera eye. Despite its minimalist appearance and ability to do little more physically than trundle about, Nxrobo claims that the robot has an impressive catalog of functions and features.
According to the Shenzhen-based company, Big-i uses spatial recognition and 3D mapping to find its way about the house, and has voice and face recognition, and motion tracking. In addition, it can act as part of a home automation system to control devices, such as the television and sound equipment, and has natural language voice programming.
Essentially, Big-i is a mobile personal assistant that can follow its owners about and interact with them. Nxrobo says that it can help children with their homework as well as reminding them to wash their hands if it sees them with a piece of fruit, give directions, tune the TV to a favorite program when someone comes home, recognize when a dinner party group raises their glasses and propose a toast, and even order a pizza on command.
To keep things from getting confusing and to avoid abuse, Big-i is equipped with a learning algorithm that allows it to recognize individuals and adapt to their behavior. As part of this, the robot is programmed to give first obedience to a key person or "loyal friend," then to others in the family according to a hierarchy of relationships. If it encounters a stranger, Big-i will not obey them until given permission to do so.
In addition to its inbuilt functions and optional apps, Nxrobo says that Big-i can be programmed using gestures and voice in either English or Chinese, then carry out instructions on command. Later, the operating system will be made open source for those who wish more complete control.
At the heart of Big-i is a quad core x86 processor, a 3D 720p RGB camera, 360-degree microphone array, and wireless connections via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and infrared. Its sensors include light, ambient and object temperature, humidity, accelerometer, gyroscope, and haptic feedback. In addition, when its batteries run low, the robot can hunt for its charging station.
"Family robots have yet to become popular because the existing robots are expensive and the needs of every household are diverse," says Lam. "To have family robots become common in homes, it needs to be affordable with truly great design, technologies, and personalization capabilities to fit everyone's needs."
The video below shows Big-i in action.