Life has a way of making you carry things. But Budgee the robot wants to help.
Budgee is literally a basket on wheels that uses sensors to follow you wherever you go and prevent itself from running into walls or toppling off cliffs. Sure, it’s not Rosie, but Budgee could improve the lives of people who have disabilities, injuries or just too many children to leave enough arms for grocery bags.
And while a robot with just a few of Rosie’s many abilities might cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to create today, Budgee will cost you $1,399. It autonomously follows its user based on the location of their mobile phone, which is also used to communicate with Budgee.
5 Elements Robotics formed in 2012, when its team still was not sure what robot it wanted to build first, CEO Wendy Roberts said in an interview. They settled on Budgee because all of the technology was there to build it at a relatively low cost.
Since the first prototype in late 2013, 5 Elements Robotics has improved Budgee to be more aware of its surroundings. The first Budgees 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.
Budgee also has a new red cap that makes its face look even goofier–and more inviting.
“If you ever walk in my office, i’m talking to Budgee,” Roberts said. “I want it to be you look at the robot like he’s your buddy, he’s your friend. There’s a relationship you develop with the robot.”
The improved robot will make its debut at RoboBusiness next week. Production of the first units will begin in November. 5 Elements Robotics is targeting the sale of 100,000 Budgees in its first year.
But Roberts said the startup is also already looking forward to 2015, when it plans to release a second version of Budgee. 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.
“We’re something that’s not there,” Roberts said. “We’re creating the market.”