PLEN Cube Wants to Be Your Portable Assistant Robot

PLENGoer Robotics has developed a new portable robot assistant - built to be cute, easy-to-use and highly functional.

Natsuo Akazawa grew up learning about robots from movies, television, manga and science fiction novels. His family business was an ironworks that manufactured aerospace components, giving him a strong mechanical background. When choosing a career he chose to work on robots and build projects inspired by the toys and cartoons of his childhood. After a few successful humanoid robotics projects Natsuo along with his company PLENGoer Robotics is running a crowdfunding campaign for PLEN Cube, the portable personal assistant robot.

PLEN Cube has many goals but one main drive is to bring the public perception of robotics from industrial to commonplace. The three guiding principles during the design and development of PLEN Cube are: Make PLEN Cube compact yet powerful, Make it fun and expressive, and Make it a true robot companion that can help you anywhere, anytime.

There aren’t necessarily new technologies at work here, but instead a fusion of computer vision, Internet of Things, and hands-free voice control. Functions include panorama pictures and face detection, weather information, personal assistant notifications, photo and video sharing, action camera, and music streaming.

The guts of PLEN Cube is an Intel Joule system-on-module, running Linux and the Robot Operating System. Four motors allow the cube’s top to move and gesture around, giving it an animated quality. The 320×240 color LCD display is 2.2 inches and the 1080p HD camera is for photos, face tracking and action tracking. Electromagnetic field-based gesture sensor detects hand presence, the speakers are from GoerTek, and infrared home appliance control comes from Crossdoor.

Using the action camera, livestream, and tracking will drain PLEN Cube’s battery in around thirty minutes. Full hibernate mode will drain the battery in two weeks, and the estimate is that most intermediate use will give the user 2-5 hours of PLEN Cube between recharging sessions.

There are enough personal robotic assistants of varying degrees of technology that it’s hard for any one robot to distinguish itself. PLEN tries to do that through aesthetics, ease of use, and a catalog of features. An incredible development log touching on the birth of the idea in May 2016 up until this Kickstarter campaign is available as a Medium post, and gives great insight into prototyping and product development.