With its Budgee Bot robot, Five Elements Robotics has created a machine that embodies what was presumably in Karel Čapek's mind when he originally applied the word robot to an artificial automaton. First brought to public attention in his 1920 play R.U.R. (short for Rossum's Universal Robots), the word robot was adapted from robota, meaning something akin to a slave laborer in his native Czech. And though Budgee Bot is not designed for a life confined to a factory (and appears unlikely to overthrow human society), it is designed to obediently follow you around, carrying your stuff.
Which is no bad thing (not for the robot, anyway). Though Budgee Bot is perfectly capable of carry loads of up to 50 lb (23 kg) while weighing only 20 (9 kg), it lacks the wherewithal to be aware of its lot in life, much less muster any ill will about it. In fact, as Five Elements Vice President, Jim Pari, explains to Gizmag, even its most seemingly intelligent feature, the ability to follow its owner, is really rather simple. "Budgee follows a signal from a portable ultrasonic device," he says; a device you can carry in your pocket or clip to a bag strap. "Budgee Bot loves you," may be the message, but if that's true, it'll transfer its affections instantaneously if you hand over the ultransonics to someone else.
And though Budgee Bot won't actively fight to protect your belongings (which would contravene the First Law of Robotics, after all), it will come equipped with a locking mechanism, though the details are yet to be finalized. "Budgee's anti-tamper features are not yet released," Pari says. "In addition to a locking mechanism, we will feature software and hardware solutions to protect Budgee's load. We will provide more information on these features upon release." Hopefully that will include some means of locking Budgee Bot to something, as well as your belongs to it.
Looking at the Budgee Bot website, it's interesting that Five Elements is anthropomorphizing the robot very heavily indeed. "Budgee Bot likes to carry items for you." "His favorite place is to be with you!" "Budgee Bot never gets tired" (though its battery does run flat after 4 to 6 hours of normal use, and a recharge takes 6 hours).
Apparently it even greets you and attempts to cheer you up every day, and presumably that's whether you need cheering up or not. Much of today's robotics research is about human acceptance of robots, and one wonders how people will feel about asking a relentlessly cheerful robot to carry their shopping every day. Perhaps it will be possible to install software patches to apply different "personalities." I, for one, would feel better having a grumpy old bugger at my beck and call, even though the robot feels nothing at all.
Budgee Bot is getting a Kickstarter campaign in the next few weeks, but access to robot servitude doesn't come cheap: a standard model Budgee Bot is set to cost US$1,399.
Source: Five Elements Robotics