Since rolling onto the scene in the early 2000s, Segway hasn't been afraid to make modifications to its self-balancing two-wheelers in search of other practical applications. Loomo is the latest to be wheeled out and sees the Segway take the two-tone form of both mobility option and robotic assistant, with autonomous roaming features and an ability to recognize and respond to human behavior.
With a 329-Wh battery, a top speed of 18 km/h (11 mph) and range of around 35 km (22 mi), Loomo can be ridden much like a regular self-balancing Segway, using 11-inch tires to tackle terrain both on and off road. A voice-based tutorial talks first-timers through the process, with Segway claiming Loomo can be learnt to ride in a few minutes.
But hop off Loomo and the machine takes on a life of its own. Equipped with Intel's RealSense sensors (the same depth sensing and motion tracking tech inside the security-oriented Segway Nimbo announced at CES in January), Loomo can map its environment and avoid obstacles, allowing it to roll around autonomously while keeping out of trouble. This might mean following its owner around like a loyal dog, using its stabilized 1080p HD video camera to capture video on the move and store on the 64 GB of onboard storage.
This, combined with software that Segway calls a Human Understanding System, enables Loomo to recognize faces and respond to human behavior, such as gestures. With a five-microphone array in its head, Loomo can respond to voice commands and will also take cues from a companion smartphone app and touch sensors on its body.
Loomo's 4.3-inch LCD screen also allows users to interact with its emotion engine. Segway says the robot will be loaded up with a "playful personality" that will share lighthearted expressions to impress and cheer people up. It comes with an Android-based SDK, so developers can expand on these functionalities, while new skills will be continuously introduced via over-the-air updates.
Loomo is the subject of an Indiegogo campaign that kicks off today, with early bird pledges of US$1,299 available and shipping slated for May 2018 if all goes to plan. Check out the promo video below for more on Loomo.
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