Writing about tech is often straightforward. But finding words for Asus’ Zenbo home robot, announced just before the start of the Computex trade show in Taipei, is a tougher task. The multi-faceted robot is hard to categorize and, well, just plain weird.
Designed to provide “assistance, entertainment and companionship to families,” the Zenbo looks as if E.T. got together with an iMac G4. The robot is partly a home surveyor, and partly an Amazon Echo-style assistant.
It can understand spoken commands, so you can do thinks like tell it to remind you of a doctor’s appointment. It also automatically monitors the home for emergency situations, notifying family members via a smartphone when something bad happens. It has a built-in camera (great for taking family photos, Asus claims) and can be remotely controlled, say to check what your dog or toddler is doing.
Zenbo also doubles as a stereo speaker; it can tell your child bedtime stories or amuse them with educational games. Its animated face, which can show a range of emotions, is a touchscreen.
Finally, Zenbo can connect to other smart home appliances, such as TVs, smart lights and air conditioners. In one scenario, you can tell it to turn the TV on and off.
Asus has opened Zenbo to developers, which can create custom apps for the platform; more info can be found here.
If I had to think of a similar device, the closest match would be LG’s yet-to-be-launched Rolling Bot, which appears to be a far simpler affair. Another competitor is Japan’s Pepper, which is a bit more human-like but far more expensive.
Zenbo costs $599; there are no details about availability in the U.S. yet.