Household Robot Buddy Looks for $100k via Crowdfunding
July 09, 2015      

Blue Frog Robotics this week launched a crowdfunding campaign for its Buddy robot, which it is promoting as not only a companion, but also as a “robotic modular platform that can be expanded infinitely with new applications and accessories like a projector, arms, inductive charging tray, side table – to make your daily life easier, safer and with a little bit of fun.”

A 35-day crowdfunding campaign is seeking $100,000 on Indiegogo, and it had already raised more than $114,000 from 178 people in the first two days. For $549 plus shipping, supporters can get the “classic edition” and a basic software tool kit. Early developer releases have already sold out, and for $6,490, academic supporters can get up to 12 developer versions of Buddy.

Buddy is the first robot to use the Unity 3D integrated development environment, which is used in smartphone applications and video games. Buddy can help teach children basic programming concepts, serve as a personal assistant, and patrol the home, according to Paris-based Blue Frog Robotics.

“We’ve created Buddy to be part of our everyday life, manage and watch our home, entertain us, educate our children, keep us connected to our loved ones, and to provide assistance to seniors,” said Rodolphe Hasselvander, co-founder and CEO of Blue Frog Robotics.

Buddy is just under 2 feet tall and weighs about 8 pounds. It can run for 8 to 10 hours on a battery charge and includes obstacle detectors, multimedia outputs, and Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

Like other household robots such as Jibo, people can use Buddy to suggest recipes in the kitchen and take advantage of its voice-recognition, text-to-speech, and telepresence capabilities. Buddy also has three wheels but no arms initially, and it has a camera and infrared sensors.

The modular robot has an expressive face on its touchscreen and facial recognition ability. Like R2-D2, Wall-E, or Baymax, Buddy is nonthreatening in appearance. “There was something about R2-D2 that made people feel affection for him,” Jean-Michel Mourier, chief technology officer of Blue Frog Robotics, told SD Times. “That’s why he influenced and inspired Buddy.”

Buddy supports French and English, and support for other languages can be downloaded. In addition to modular hardware, most of the robot’s coding is open source, and it supports a number of programming languages.

“About 80 percent of Buddy will be open source,” said Mourier. “Today, all of the major components are open source: the brain of the robot, which controls navigation, facial expressions, object and voice recognition, interfaces that control interactions, learning, making connections as well as domotics [home automation]. In addition, elements of Buddy’s mechanics are open so that developers can build accessories.”

Blue Frog Robotics is a spinoff of CRIIF, a French robotics laboratory that develops robots for the defense and healthcare markets. Blue Frog and CRIIF have also worked together on the SAMI life-size humanoid robot that can be controlled by a Kinect 2 motion sensor or an EEG headset.

Blue Frog Robotics said it expects to ship Buddy in November.