Just don’t watch the creepy 11 minute commercial that makes the family who owns a Zenbo seem stranger than the reality of living with a miniature robot in your home.
Actually this little robot is a very cool toy, and a pretty damn impressive tool to boot. It’s a real world BB-8, with real life AI.
I read a dozen articles on this surprisingly inexpensive personal home do-it-all (under $600).
It’s loaded with more features than the latest iPhone, and can do everything from reminding you to take your meds, to calling for help if grandpa falls and busts his butt.
It can remind you of what’s coming on TV tonight, turn on your TV for you, dim the lights and even adjust the thermostat.
It can help you figure out what to cook for dinner, and then read you the recipe step by step while you’re cooking it.
It can hunt down your toddler or little kids, and then read them a story and play educational games with them (complete with visual images and voices to go along with it). It can take pictures if your darling daughter wants a self propelled selfie machine (even tracking her as she pirouettes across the bedroom like a ballerina). It can also broadcast those pics to your smart phone, so you can keep an eye on her without having to get up from your desk.
It can shop for you online, and help you decide which accessories you want with your latest clothing ensemble.
It can patrol your house while you are gone or asleep and send you live video of someone breaking in, and I imagine it could probably be programmed to call the cops for you too (although I think a good blanket might be a deterrent for the criminally minded, who are afraid of being videoed while actually committing a crime).
It has a cute voice, and it is even capable or recognizing faces of family members, following complex verbal instructions, and following you around the house autonomously like a cute and ever-present puppy of sorts. Hopefully it’s better at jumping out of the way if you change direction, so that it doesn’t get stepped on … or cause grandpa to fall and bust his butt.
But here’s the one thing I noticed that still causes me concern (even more than having a camera-enabled broadcast-drone wandering around my house at night and watching who knows what by remote control).
In all the pics of Zenbo, what seems to be missing?
So that means that in order for this cute little helper to be able to help anywhere in your home, it has to have the doors left open. All the time. Say good-bye to personal privacy.
For all that Zenbo can do a lot, there is something missing. Something important. Something that changes the nature of the relationship we will have with this mini robot. As long as we are willing to accept our role in the dynamic (opening doors, doing the cooking, getting grandpa the meds he can’t remember to take, etc), Zenbo will be great.
Or maybe that’s with intent?
Zenbo will be unable to do physical things for us, so instead it will give us instructions, watch over every move we make, will alert the authorities for us (or in spite of us), will tell us what to cook, and what to buy, and even who is at the door. Zenbo will be able to control what we watch on TV, and what bedtime stories our children listen to …
And because he is so damn cute, Zenbo will, through it’s passive-aggressive, pouty expression, make us feel guilty as hell when we close our door and lock him out of the bed room so we can have a private night of romance without him wanting to take selfies (for the neighbor kid who hacked into his control protocols?).
All Hail Zenbo, the cute, armless, Overlord.
But don’t get me wrong, I’ll be buying one as soon as they go on the market. They are really cool.
As long as it DOESN’T come with arms.
Yes, we can stop the rise of Skynet, with a closet door (so far).
Here is the Zenbo website. (and if you really want to, you can watch the creepy family video there too, but don’t say I didn’t warn you!)