Sometimes all it takes to make something successful is a simple solution to a simple problem. At RoboBusiness 2013, Five Elements Robotics demonstrated prototypes of a little robot called Budgee that can follow you around while carrying your stuff for you. That's all it does, but that's all it needs to do to be pretty darn useful.
Budgee is just about as simple as a robot of this size can get. It's got two wheels and holds a basket, and will autonomously drive after you while you walk around, whether you're shopping, out at the park, or doing anything else. It doesn't have any sort of fancy vision or navigation systems or anything like that. Instead, you slip a small ultrasonic pinger into your pocket, which the robot homes in on:
You can talk to the robot using an app on your phone, and set basic parameters like follow distance (and eye color!). Budgee can hold up to 22 kilograms (50 pounds) of whatever you like in a basket equipped with some sort of locking mechanism, and when you're done, the 'bot folds up into a package that somehow weighs just a little over 2 kilograms (5 pounds). Also included are a bump sensor and cliff sensors, but otherwise, that's the entire robot. Like we said, simple and straightforward.
As much as we like this idea, we're a little bit concerned about the $1,400 asking price. Five Elements is targeting a mid-November Kickstarter launch, and we're looking forward to a bunch more details when it goes live.
Evan Ackerman is the senior writer for IEEE Spectrum's award-winning robotics blog, Automaton. Since 2007, he has written over 6,000 articles on robotics and emerging technology, covering conferences and events on every single continent except Antarctica (although he remains optimistic). In addition to Spectrum, Evan's work has appeared in a variety of other online publications including Gizmodo and Slate, and you may have heard him on NPR's Science Friday or the BBC World Service if you were listening at just the right time. Evan has an undergraduate degree in Martian geology, which he almost never gets to use, and still wants to be an astronaut when he grows up. In his spare time, he enjoys scuba diving, rehabilitating injured raptors, and playing bagpipes excellently.