Romo, the smartphone-brained robot (Photo: Romotive)
Siri may be the latest “wow” feature on a phone, but have you ever sat around and thought: “If my smartphone is so smart, how come it can’t bring me a beer?”
That’s pretty close to what a couple of buddies thought one day when they asked, “What if a smartphone had legs?” So self-described “robot nerds” Peter Seid, 22, and Phu Nguyen, 25, went to work building a prototype. A short time later they had built Romo, a fully customizable and programmable robot that uses apps downloaded into a smartphone as its brain.
All you need to do is dock your phone into the tank-like base, and download the app that you like. Romo can have different personalities and functions depending on which app you choose. “That makes upgrading and changing Romo’s functionalities extremely easy,” according to Keller Rinaudo, the CEO and Evangelist of Romotive, the company formed to develop and distribute Romo.
Keller also told me “Our main goal is not to get in the way of people’s imaginations. The platform is very flexible, you can even add a claw or a scoop if you want. So we will be releasing the API so anyone can create an app to have Romo do whatever they like.” And then share it with the world in the app store, so those of us who are not “robot nerds” can simply download and use, giving Romo endless possibilities.
Want to get your hands on Romo now? The first 100 are being specially engraved and shipped in December to $200 contributors on Kickstarter.com, the site they turned to for start up capital. When they reached their goal of $35,000 in just a few days, and became the most successful start-up in the history of the site, the Silicon Valley elite came calling. With an influx of substantial funding. That’s allowed them to build another 1,000 Romos that will be shipped in February to people who contribute $78. (Contribute to Romotive) The goal is for the next round of Romos to go one sale shortly after that for $40, then settle at a goal price point of somewhere around $25-$30.
A robot in every home?
Considering Honda’s Asimo costs millions, and the Anybots can run $15,000-$30,000 to let you attend meetings from anywhere, Romo is a pocket-change solution to your robotic needs. And if you don’t think you need a personal robot right now, Rinaudo is quick to remind us of the homegrown computer club back in the early 70′s in Palo Alto, CA. “It was basically geeks in garages playing with compouter chips and writing code,” says Rinaudo. “They were building computers that couldn’t do anything and the business people laughed. They’d say, ‘What is it good for? Why in the hell would anyone want a computer in their home?’ It took people hacking and believing and being nerdy enough to figure it out… and ignoring all the investors and business people. Now we say how ridiculously ignorant those investors and business people were.”
If you want to contribute to Romotive and get your own Romo before they are released to the public, click over to Kickstarter.com. They will stop taking contributions on Monday, November 21, 2011 at 12:46pm ET.