Bossa Nova Robotics has just introduced a brand new research platform based on Carnegie Mellon's ballbot spherical locomotion platform. Called "mObi" (which I'll be capitalizing "Mobi" because, seriously now, c'mon guys), it's "the first step towards the creation of a 21st century personal robotics platform for everyday consumers."
Last we heard from Bossa Nova was back in 2009, when they started commercializing toys with wheel-legs (another development from Carnegie Mellon robotics), including Prime-8 the gorilla and Penbo the penguin. Mobi isn't destined for the consumer market, though: it's for research into human-robot interaction in home and business environments. Inside is some unspecified "next generation" Intel hardware running either a Windows or ROS operating system. Mobi has a tablet dock for a head, a PrimeSense sensor in the neck, and something called an "Emotive Light Array."
We don't have any vids (yet) of Mobi ballin' around, but if you're not familiar with ballbots, here's some footage of ReZero, a European ballbot project from a couple years back:
Ballbots are great because they can move in any direction without turning, and they have a very small footprint, which is ideal for environments designed for humans. Ballbots are terrible because they're not statically stable: since they're constantly balancing themselves, if you shut the power off, they'll faceplant. Mobi appears to have solved this with some sort of rapid deploy safety system that looks like it consists of six legs that shoot down around the base if the robot ever loses power or control. Anybots QB has a "kickstand" that accomplishes the same thing.
Ballbot will be available to researchers and developers in 2013 for an as-yet unspecified price. What we've heard, though, is that this thing is going to be very low cost, and that future generations will have more ways of interacting with their environment, eventually leading up to an affordable and capable general-purpose household robot.
[ Bossa Nova mObi ]
Evan Ackerman is a senior editor at IEEE Spectrum. Since 2007, he has written over 6,000 articles on robotics and technology. He has a degree in Martian geology and is excellent at playing bagpipes.