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Social robots are making their entrance at the Consumer Electronics Show this year. AvatarMind today unveiled its iPal Companion Robot, which is designed as an educational and entertaining friend for children and elderly people.
AvatarMind is showing off the robot in a booth at the Family and Technology Marketplace at the Sands Expo during CES 2017. The robot can sing, dance, navigate a maze, and interact with people. iPal is expected to ship in China in the first quarter, with U.S. availability later in the year.
The iPal is intended to serve as a learning and safety companion for children. It is also designed to get kids off the couch and interested in science and technology. The iPal stands 3.5 feet tall. It has a built-in camera and Wi-Fi/Bluetooth connectivity. Parents can use iPal to keep an eye on children from another room or from anywhere outside the home, and they can even use the robot to interact with their children remotely.
“iPal can make the everyday lives of parents a little easier and provide a much richer experience for children, compared just to sitting in front of a TV or screen,” said John Ostrem, CEO of AvatarMind, in a statement. “However, iPal is not intended to be a standalone baby sitter, a replacement for parents, or a substitute for making friends with kids their own age — certainly no robot can or should take the place of parents or friends.”
iPal can also be a companion for elders living alone who, due to health or mobility challenges, may not get the social interaction they’d like or may need a bit of assistance around the house. iPal can aid in medication compliance and medical monitoring, and it can supplement professional care services to help the elderly live independently longer. Kids can also use the robots to communicate visually with their grandparents. Standard Android apps can run on the screen located on iPal’s chest, and the robot has a microphone to record and save video and audio.
“In many ways, seniors face some of the same challenges as children — physical inactivity and the need to stay connected with those who care about them,” Ostrem said. “iPal provides stimulation, companionship, and peace of mind for every generation.”
iPal is equipped with many motors that give it a wide range of motion in the arms and neck. Three infrared and five ultrasound sensors provide short- and long-range object detection, with built-in obstacle collision avoidance software, while a 1.3 MP camera and six microphones capture and record video and sound. The battery is in the base to make sure the robot has a low center of gravity and isn’t likely to tip over. The robot can see the space around it and avoid nearby objects.
iPal’s standard high-performance battery provides a full day of typical use, while an optional upgraded battery runs for nearly three full days on a single charge. iPal is compatible with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth and is fully cloud-connected for remote accessibility from anywhere. While it has legs, iPal rolls around on wheels, as walking is much more complex and expensive.
Among other possible applications, iPal could be employed as a greeter or receptionist in a business or at a hotel.
AvatarMind will be offering its iPal robot development platform to potential partners, who can customize it as they wish. The price is expected to range from $1,500 to $2,000.
The company was founded in 2014 by a group of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and robotics experts.