Looking for an Open source, GNU/Linux based R2-D2 for your home? But one that talks instead of beeping and…making that other sound that R2-D2 makes? Aido’s got you covered. Aido is a home assistant/robot from InGen Dynamics Inc., a Pal Alto-based automation firm, and is the brainchild of Arshad Hisham, a self-proclaimed robotophile and CEO of InGen.
What sets Aido apart from other home assistant solutions like Mycroft (I’m not knocking on Mycroft here at all—I heart Mycroft and I’m excited to see it in action—in fact, I’d love to do a write-up here in the near future if possible), Jibo, and *cough* Echo, is the fact that it’s mobile. That’s right, it’ll jam around your house just like your favorite robots straight out of movie mythology (but hopefully without the “I’m sentient now and have to kill you” part). The robot boasts an omnidirectional ball at its base, a “ballbot”, design that allows for stability and locomotion around the home. Of course this doesn’t solve the ever elusive “stairs” issue, but it’s a step in the right direction (no pun intended—okay, it was kind of intended).
Power is provided by a dual battery (lead acid and nickel cadmium hybrid) configuration with dedicated hardware to deal with power management and battery switching. According to the campaign, Aido can function for about 8 hours including 2 hours of mobility, which, if true, is pretty acceptable considering the bot will be relatively close to its charging station ($199 extra) at any given time. The FAQ has charging times at 12 hours for first use and 4-5 hours for daily use. If you need Aido to be more stationary, the top part of the assembly is detachable and can function as a table-top appliance like Mycroft. Aido:
“Ahem, Dave? Where’s my body?”
Aido uses voice control as its main interface: according to the site, the robot has a 6 mic array with dedicated hardware for detecting and filtering the human voice. Speech recognition is done using a “3rd party speech engine based on a custom deep neural net architecture,” so time will tell how robust the architecture is when dealing with real world human needs and everyday speech parsing.
Another unique feature of Aido is its ability to project content onto a wall or countertop. This allows you to be able to watch Netflix on the living room wall or to have interactive cooking directions projected onto a countertop in the kitchen. Depending on the clarity and resolution of the display, this seems to be a very nifty feature. It definitely would cut down on the need to buy multiple flat-screens for different rooms of the house.
Aido also uses what are called “workflows,” basic phrases that trigger macro actions. For instance, you may tell Aido, “Goodnight Aido,” and the bot would turn the lights off or dim them, set the thermostat, arm your security system, and get itself into a patrol mode around a pre-set path. You can customize your own workflow using an iPad or Android application, so the combinations seem fairly endless.
The software running Aido is an Android/Ubuntu Linux hybrid. It can apparently run all familiar Android apps, which might keep things pretty interesting and competitive. It is unclear if this is true for traditional GNU/Linux applications as well. Since the primary OS is a headless version of Ubuntu, it wouldn’t be easy without some dev tweaking, but hopefully some intrepid devs are out there just salivating at the chance. More good news is that Aido uses an open source platform , so developers can get their hands dirty and design new skills and behaviors for the robot and pass them on to end users.
Under the physical hood (do robots have hoods? A hatch, perhaps?) is a Raspberry Pi, two additional CPU’s (Quad Core R7 and Dual-core A23), and three GPUs to handle the graphics load. It also has WiFi and five external USB ports along with multiple environmental sensors like temperature, light levels, and humidity along with haptics for touch features and touch recognition.
As of this writing, the campaign is 474% funded with 21 days to go. To get your own home robot (that’ll likely drive the cat nuts) it is going to run you a cool $549.00. According to the campaign, this is 60% off retail. If I’m doing my “maths” right, it means that if you want to purchase a shiny new bot after the campaign it’s going to cost you over a grand. I’ve got to admit that stings a bit, so if you’re interested at all I’d get in early (although you’d be gambling on this purchase sans further reviews—you might be betting on a dud of a robotic horse—but “thems the breaks” when it comes to crowdfunding).
In the spirit of full disclosure and as a caution, I don’t actually have one of these robots on hand. As such, I can only rely on the campaign’s information as a source. The Indiegogo video came off as a little misleading: the examples of the robot’s projection functionality look “photoshopped in” as do any shots of Aido’s screen, and so it all feels a bit deceptive. Mobility might be problematic as well, depending on the environments that it has to traverse; the video doesn’t show this in comprehensive detail, so collision and obstacle avoidance are questionable. Its further claims of “object” and “scene” recognition might be a bit far-fetched, too—I would have liked to see an actual demonstration of Aido recognizing and responding to events happening around it.
Home robots are an inevitability and we’re seeing just the beginning. I would guess that this is the “pong” of the robot development cycle, but if you’re curious and want in on the ground floor check it out at their Indiegogo page.
The Linux Crowd
About this column: The Linux Crowd attempts to locate interesting crowdfunded projects and bring them to your attention, the GNU/Linux enthusiast. These projects are curated from the usual crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter.com, Indiegogo.com, and Crowdsupply.org., in order to find those that look particularly noteworthy, but ones specifically that use GNU/Linux as a major component. Some of these projects are ongoing and could use your support, while others might have finished (successfully) in which case you can still contribute to purchase an item. If you have any comments or questions hit me up at: firstname.lastname@example.org