To this day, the Roomba remains the one successful mainstream home robotic. It was a feat iRobot achieved after a decade or so of throwing concepts against the wall, ultimately achieving success through a combination of outward-facing simplicity and under-the-hood sophistication.
That other robots haven’t achieved those heights isn’t for lack of trying. The field has been littered with promising, high-profile failures. Notable recent additions to the dust bin of social home robotics history include Anki and Jibo. Both projects had interest and funding, but were ultimately unable to sustain.
Founded in Los Angeles in early 2016 by USC robotics professor Maja Matarić and former iRobot CTO Paolo Pirjanian, Embodied is the latest company to swing for the fences here. The startup has backing from Intel Capital, Toyota AI Ventures, Amazon Alexa Fund, Sony Innovation Fund, JAZZ Venture Partners, Calibrate Ventures, Osage University Partners and Grishin Robotics.
Taking a page from Anki’s Cozmo playbook, the company has enlisted the help of employees from Pixar and Jim Henson to flesh out the real-world robotic character. At first glance, the results are plenty impressive.
The company has posted a series of videos featuring Moxie, highlighting an extremely expressive facial display coupled with animatronic body movements. Given its focus on childhood education/development, Embodied has also employed the help of neuroscientists and child development specialists to flesh out the product, which is set to launch in beta to start.
“We’re at a tipping point in the way we will interact with technology,” Pirjanian, the company’s CEO, said in statement. “At Embodied, we have been rethinking and reinventing how human-machine interaction is done beyond simple verbal commands, to enable the next generation of computing, and to power a new class of machines capable of fluid social interaction. Moxie is a new type of robot that has the ability to understand and express emotions with emotive speech, believable facial expressions and body language, tapping into human psychology and neurology to create deeper bonds.”
The robot focuses on a different theme each week, including kindness, friendship, empathy and respect, personalizing content to a child over time. Moxie looks to be an impressive take on the category, though things are still very early stages here. Along with all of the built-in difficulties that come with launching a home robot, the device is price-prohibitive at $1,499. If you’re up for the risk, reservations are open now and Moxie will start shipping in the fall.