Ebo gives video callers a roaming robot body
Robots are invading our homes more and more, but (so far at least) their intentions seem nice, as they vacuum our floors, watch for intruders or keep our pets company. Enabot’s latest home robot looks to give video calls a bit more mobility, letting remote users drop in, roam around and chat.
Ebo is basically a webcam on wheels, wrapped in a Pixar packaging. It started life as a pet companion robot two years ago, but now Enabot has taught it a few new tricks. Users can log into it through an app and drive it around the house from wherever they are, using the HD camera, microphone and speakers to see, hear and talk to whoever’s home. It can snap photos and videos too, storing them on an internal SD card.
That gives it a range of possible uses. It can be a way to keep in touch with the family when you’re away, check on the kids or the old folks, or play with a pet while you’re at work. Up to five different people can be given permission to jump into the driver’s seat.
Ebo can also be set up as a security camera, recording video 24 hours a day from its dock or going out on scheduled patrols around the house. Motion detection and night vision help out in that regard.
There’s also an autonomous mode, where Ebo can roam around like a robotic pet, if that’s what you’re after.
Of course, this little robot is loaded with a few other features to keep it from spending all its time flipped upside down or stuck in the corner. ToF sensors can detect obstacles and either turn or stop Ebo. When it’s running low on power, the robot will automatically return to its charger.
Ebo comes in two models, the SE and the Air. The latter is the more advanced version, which adds a laser pet toy, a more powerful processor, faster movement speeds and a drop sensor that will keep it from falling off tables or down stairs.
We do foresee a few problems, though. For one, “from the ankle up” isn’t exactly a flattering camera angle for anybody.
But the bigger issue of course is privacy – Ebo has all the concerns that come with an internet-connected camera, with the added issue of “hackers” being potentially able to scope out your entire house. But even intended users might not be welcome all the time – it’s annoying enough when your parents drop in unannounced, let alone giving them the chance to livestream whatever shenanigans you get up to in the privacy of your own home. It looks like you can turn Ebo off, but it has to be a conscious decision and kind of goes against the design of the device.
That said, you probably wouldn’t give control permission to anyone you didn’t trust, so it might not be too much of an issue. Overall Ebo looks like an interesting smart home addition, packing in a bunch of features from a range of other household robots. It’s much more affordable than aibo, more versatile than Vector, and more fun than flying security drones like Tando.
Enabot is currently seeking funding for Ebo on Kickstarter, where it’s already smashed its US$10,000 goal more than 17 times over. Early bird pledges start at around US$59 for the SE model and US$99 for the Air model, and if all goes to plan, shipping should begin by September.
Check out Ebo in the video below.