Pet robot Loona looks straight out of a Disney movie
Robot pets have been a sci-fi staple for decades, and in recent years we’ve seen a glut of them finally hit the market, with varying success. The latest is Loona, a quite advanced-looking bot with a lot of tricks up its sleeves and a personality straight out of a Disney movie.
Loona is a four-wheeled robot standing 6.8 in (172 mm) high, with a 2.4-in LCD screen for a face. That screen displays a pair of very cartoonish eyes designed to really sell the illusion that this thing is alive, expressing joy, anger, sadness, curiosity, and a range of other emotions. In that sense, it looks suspiciously similar to Anki’s Vector robot, which was apparently designed by ex-Pixar animators.
But not only are Loona’s eyes even more detailed, it sports a pair of glowing ear-like antennas on top of her head that add to the effect, raising with happiness or drooping with disappointment. Unlike Vector’s boxy body, Loona has a sleeker form, with what almost amounts to a neck, and wheels that can be lifted independently like arms.
The end result is a plucky little robot that can do some pretty pet-like things. Loona can apparently roam your house freely, respond to being petted, come when it's called, fetch a ball, chase a laser pointer, do tricks, welcome you home, follow you around, explore its surroundings, sneeze, dance, race, and play games.
To pull all this off, Loona is kitted out with a suite of tech, including microphones for voice commands, and cameras for recognizing faces and people, navigating around objects, tracking movement, and avoiding falling off edges.
Like any good robot, it's also programmable using an app, which is designed to be simple enough to teach users and particularly kids the basics of coding while adding new functionality to their pet. Future updates will apparently allow users to edit Loona’s actions, expressions and interactions, as well as connect the robot to Home Assistant to control other devices.
Loona’s creator, KEYi Tech, is currently funding the project through Kickstarter, where it’s already raised well over US$1.7 million from its original $20,000 target. Early bird pledges start at $299, which is $150 off from its eventual retail price. If all goes to plan, shipping should begin in February 2023, or backers can pay extra to receive theirs in time for Christmas.