Shanghai Engineers Develop Personal Robot Assistant

Roboming is a personal robot currently running an indiegogo funding campaign.

Roger Li and his team at Roboming thought of robots in two major categories. Robots could be built for one specific purpose, like a welding robot or a medical assisting robot. The other category that interested the team the most was human interaction robots. Companion robots served a very specific purpose but could also be used to beef up home security and play games with a human user. This was the robotic development path that was taken. The team is currently running an Indiegogo campaign for Roboming Fellow, The Robot Friend for Everyone.

Roboming contains two motors for movement and sensors that scan for obstacles and act as a cliff detector mechanism. The entire system fits in a 179 x 198 x 179 millimeter footprint, and the four 18650 lithium ion batteries can power the unit for about three hours on a charge.

Roboming has five basic functions. In a new environment the bot will scan the area to get a map of the space and the objects inside the space. Control of movement can be done through the robot’s app or by voice commands. Voice commands can also tell Roboming to give ‘emotional feedback’, as the campaign shows the single fast blink is a robotic smile. The sensors can detect when the bot’s owner is passing by and follow throughout the house. Finally the flat upper service of Roboming can be used to deliver payloads up to 7 pounds from one place to another, led by voice commands or the app.

Roger spoke with us and answered a few questions about the development of Roboming. He said that the most difficult development portion of the robot was the indoor environment learning. Using Lidar and SLAM mapping techniques the team was able to build algorithms that allow Roboming to move around the house and map the terrain for future use. Developing the tank tread for the system was a surprise challenge when developing prototypes. The treads performed differently on different surfaces. Eventually through transmission tweaks and using a different material for the treads the problem was solved. Roboming can also climb inclines up to a 15 degree slope. Future iterations of Roboming are targeted to have more AI and the longterm goal is for the robot to have a conversation with its owner.

Roboming is one of several personal assistant / companion robots coming to market. I’m impressed by the clean and sleek aesthetic look of the machine and the voice command demonstrations in the campaign video. There’s a great twenty second video on the project’s Facebook page that shows the evolution of the robot’s look over the last two years. As of this writing the project is a little more than a fourth of the way through its $50,000 funding goal, with another month left in the campaign window. If successful first units are expected to ship in May 2017.