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Man's best friend is about to get a major upgrade—but don't expect this dog to eat your homework.
Roobo, a Chinese artificial intelligence startup, recently pulled back the curtain on an artificial intelligence-powered "pet robot" named Domgy. An affectionate anagram of the phrase "my dog," Domgy could be yanked from an episode of the classic "Jetsons" cartoon—even though his functions are more like robotic housekeeper Rosie than the family's pet dog Astro.
The beauty of Domgy, however, is that he won't require long walks, feedings or bathroom breaks. He's the latest is a line of cyber pets that were once heralded as the wave of the future before losing popularity. Sony once manufactured a robot canine, but shut the project down more than a year ago.
In some ways, Roobo is attempting to pick up where Sony left off. The company told CNBC recently that Domgy is more than just a run of the mill automated pet. It has "smart-home" features that give its owners weather forecasts, change the television channel and is even a guard dog. Domgy's face recognition capabilities can identify strangers, and can warn owners if an intruder enters the home.
"With its unique AI capabilities, you can teach Domgy to do different things based on voice commands and visual cues," said Anthony Chen, Roobo's marketing director. "Unlike a lot of consumer robots on the market, it's both functional and fun."
Roobo collaborated with the Korean-based Innovative Play Lab, a company Roobo invested in early last year, to design Domgy. With offices from Moscow to Seattle, Roobo has roughly 300 employees since it was founded in 2014, and continues to explore innovations in robotics, wearables, virtual reality and drones. The goal is to make consumer tech more family-friendly.
"Our ideal consumer target is the family, especially those with busy lives," said Chen. "We are focused on integrating cutting-edge AI and robotic technology to enhance the interactive experience [and] create a smarter, better life."
The nine-inch robotic Domgy is equipped with an emotive, touch-screen face that doubles as a media player, as well as several cameras that can be used to take photos and video, useful when Domgy isn't using them to navigate your living room.
Roobo has ventured into the voice-controlled, kid-friendly robot territory before. Last year, the company unveiled its "Pudding" product at CES Las Vegas, a robot designed to interact with children through educational lessons. The bot was a big hit in China.
Domgy joins a clutch of other robot pets vying for the attention of people who want the companionship of a pet without the messy bits. For example, Boston Dynamics recently debuted an all-electric robot dot called SpotMini that actually performs limited housework.
For its part, Roobo's pet is mostly designed for fun, companionship and tasks that are less hands on. Domgy responds to specific commands, and can be taught ti dance, speak, play music, and send personal notifications programmed by the user.
"Roobo has a big technical team behind its AI, and our AI focus is on improving the family experience," said Chen. "You can combine functions yourself, just like putting together a jigsaw puzzle," such as a choreographed dance routine, Chen added.
And when Domgy's 4 to 6 hour battery life begins to run low, it will automatically find its way to the charging station on its own.
Domgy is expected to be released later this fall at a price still yet to be determined.