The huge reaction to Amazon's Echo device proved that consumers are indeed interested in personal artificial intelligence units. What originally started with Siri isn't just about smartphones and Google Maps anymore - now, it looks like A.I. isn't far from stepping into the home and becoming a true personal assistant.
While the Echo device was an impressive step forward, it's not necessarily the most versatile unit on the market. Though the compact design looks great, there are some inherent limitations: it's hard to take pictures without a camera, and it's hard to move without wheels. It may sound like a small inconvenience, but if the main point of these units is that they're convenient to use and able to do almost anything, why shouldn't they be able to move around or take a picture on their own?
That's exactly the sort of issue that the Personal Robot by Robotbase is hoping to solve. It's not just a beefed-up Siri sitting on a bedside table, it's a fully-fuctional robotic servant, with a far wider range of capabilities:
If the Kickstarter project can come through on its promises, the Personal Robot could be huge: at that point, the A.I. would essentially be a robotic butler. Keeping schedules, buying groceries, taking photos, playing music - it'd be like having a roommate that does all of life's tiny, inconvenient chores for you.
That being said, the project makes some pretty lofty promises. The Personal Robot's basic functions would be easy enough to pull off: a small motor for movement, a camera for face recognition and photography, and a microphone for voice recognition. These are all pieces of technology we've seen before. In fact, many of the core features of the Personal Robot are already built into most smartphones.
It's the more complicated tech that seems somewhat harder to pull off. Room mapping is definitely a possibility, but where does the Personal Robot store all that data? Is there a limit to how much memory one of the units can hold? The same limitations also apply for music, pictures, temperature data, passwords, you name it. It can be assumed that the memory will be stored in the base of the unit, but the technical specifications never mention just how much data the Personal Robot can hold. All of the nifty features won't mean much if the unit's memory fills up too quickly.
Also, there are bound to be some people that aren't happy about a robot that can make purchases and order food without specific permission. It's one of those things that'll likely be an option to turn off once the final product rolls out, but there's a reason why so many top-of-their-field scientists are warning companies about this sort of technology.
Long story short: Robotbase is being hugely ambitious with the Personal Robot, and if the company comes through on its promises, the A.I. unit could be an absolute bombshell. There are some lingering questions as to the unit's limitations, as well as some of the technical aspects of its learning systems, but the sheer amount of different things it can do is almost staggering. Plus, the project's already been funded, meaning that those who are excited about an electronic butler don't have to worry about the project never coming to fruition.
With 22 days left before the project is successfully completed, there's still plenty of time to secure one of the units before it goes to full retail price (though it's still pretty expensive, starting at $995).
If you're looking to donate to the project (or just want to see a bit more) head on over to the official Kickstarter page.