Five Elements Robotics’ Budgee is a “friendly robot assistant” designed for the elderly and handicapped that is lightweight with a top speed of 2.4 mph. If you’re walking too fast for it to keep up, it’ll say so, with an app that lets you tailor the message. You can also program the color of its eyes, which have different sizes.
Budgee easily folds up for storage purposes and weighs just 20 pounds, yet it lugs up to 50 pounds of stuff. The robot runs up to 10 hours on a charge, and although it’s rain-resistant, don’t take it swimming. Not that it would follow you into the pool anyway. Sensors help keep it from falling down stairs, running into obstacles or going off a cliff.
The follow function works through sonar sensors embedded in Budgee’s “ears.” To make it work, owners clip a small module onto the back of his their belt and use the app to set the distance at which their little friend follows. The company is working on a joystick interface that will make the robot more easily controlled for those who use wheelchairs.
Since the first prototype in late 2013, 5 Elements Robotics has improved Budgee to be more aware of its surroundings. The first Budgee had a bumper. Like a Roomba, they waited until they bumped into something before correcting their course. Now they have sensors on their front and side to avoid obstacles in advance. Sensors on their bottom prevent the robots from falling off ledges.
Five Elements Robotics plans to release a second version of Budgee in 2015. The new robot would be tailored to a retail environment. Customers could walk into a store and place items directly into a Budgee. The robot would ring them up and take a payment, and then escort them out to their car to transfer their goods. Budgee would then return itself to the store.