The ninebot Segway transforms into a personal robot. Credit: Mark Hachman
Then when demonstrators attach arms to the hoverboard robot, people get really excited.
“Oh, I want one,” said Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with ZK Research. “I thought it was exciting since it's the first robot like this that we have seen. Both companies thought about what’s possible and built something that is significantly different than what's on the market today.”
At Tuesday’s opening keynote at CES, the annual consumer electronics show in Las Vegas, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich caught the audience’s attention when he showed off a hoverboard, built by Segway and powered by an Intel atom chip, that can turn into a robot by simply popping its robotic head out of a knee-high pole that comes up out of the board.
Not surprisingly dubbed the Segway Robot, this uses the new Intel RealSense ZR300 Camera to navigate complex environments. The camera, which is positioned on its "face" and can connect with the Internet, allows the device to not only recognize and avoid obstacles in its path but to also recognize the human in charge of it.
The robot also can talk and recognize voice commands. For instance, during the demo, it was told to answer the door and it then guided a guest into the room.
Demonstrators also snapped on a couple of arms to add to the robot’s capabilities.
Segway is scheduled to officially release the robotic hoverboard in the first half of this year and then release a developer kit in the second half of 2016.
“What was most interesting was the ecosystem,” said Patrick Moorhead, an analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy, who was in the keynote audience when the robot was demoed. “Developers can create add-ons, like arms that could specialize in things like carrying goods, folding laundry, making beds and cleaning the floors.”
Moorhead said he was excited to see the demonstration but his main interest is in how the transportation device can transform into a robot. “This is an advance in the ecosystem of robotics,” he added. “To this point, no one has had an ecosystem like this.”
The robot is built on an open platform so third-party developers will be able to create add-ons and new applications for the machine.
New Hampshire-based Segway was acquired by Chinese competitor Ninebot last spring. The company recently announced that it will keep the Segway name.
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