“A California startup, Aido, is developing a $940 home robot that looks similar to Jibo but balances on a single rolling ball and can move around the house. (Jibo sits wherever you put it.) That lets Aido measure air quality as it moves around your home or serve as a security guard.”
Aido Robot Founder and CEO invited on the panelists and speakers at the San Jose Robo Business Event along with the Sensory CEO, Eyeris CEO, Jibo Developer Evangelist and Mark Bunger from Lux Research. This has been a great month for us!
RoboBusiness is the event where You’ll find all the ground-breaking, revolutionizing and life changing advancements being made in robotics all under one roof. Along with industry’s most influential end users, investors and solutions providers from innovative companies including Alphabet, Amazon, Bosch, FedEx, Google, Intel, iRobot, Johnson & Johnson, Qualcomm, Siemens, Toyota, Yamaha and many more!
The consumer robotics market—currently composed primarily of home cleaning, lawn mowing and toy robots–is marked for massive growth with the arrival of intelligent social robots. These robots, designed for direct human interaction, need the ability to hear, listen, understand and respond in order to perform as intelligent assistants in the home.
Over the next 5 years, developments in speech and object recognition, machine intelligence and mobile technologies will determine the trajectory of this game-changing class of consumer robots. This panel of experts from relevant technology fields will help you map how critical enabling technologies are currently impacting the consumer robot continuum. You’ll get an inside view of current capabilities and successful commercial applications as well as insights into what the future holds.
One of Aido’s key features is an intuitive yet powerful visual automator. This allows you to leverage Aido’s connection to smart devices and web services to create schedules. Aido supports standards like Zigbee, DLNA, Z-Wave, BLE and Wi-Fi that let it connect with most of the standard smart devices in the market. Aido can also act as a Universal Remote (using infrared) to let you control your TV, music system and more.
Workflows can be created on Aido’s companion app on iPad, iPhone or Android tablets or phones, and automatically sync with Aido.
Here is a sample workflow where Aido gets you ready for bed. On saying ‘Goodnight Aido’, you can program Aido to turn lights off or dim them, set the temperature in your room, arm your security system, patrol your home around particular paths and more.
Aido and simulated stay
In case you’re traveling out of town, you can program Aido with a holiday workflow. Aido can simulate stay – meaning turn lights on and off in random patterns as if someone was staying at home.
Workflows are easy to create with Aido’s intuitive yet powerful visual automator on the companion app on Android or iOS. This allows you to leverage Aido’s connection to smart devices and web services to create schedules. Aido supports standards like Zigbee, DLNA, Z-Wave, BLE and Wi-Fi that let it connect with most of the standard smart devices in the market. Aido can also act as a Universal Remote (using infrared) to let you control your TV, music system and more.
When we began work on Aido’s UI, we realized it was a unique challenge. We had to factor in multiple elements in the interaction design – behavioral patterns, speech commands, motion and a large visual interface.
Our challenge with Aido’s interface was to balance likeability and utility. We decided to use a faceplate for Aido as the primary visual interface. Our consumer research showed that this gave Aido a warm and friendly look. However, the research also highlighted that we don’t appear ‘too close to being human’ – a threshold beyond which people begin finding robots creepy.
Designing the faceplate UI
Our UI design team led by Divesh Jaiswal iterated multiple designs with prospective users to figure out the faceplate UI. We finally split the faceplate visual design into three clusters:
Eyes, they say, are windows to the soul. We subconsciously seek and meet the eyes of those we speak to, humans or pets. It would be natural to seek the same for a robot designed for the home.
Aido has a pair of friendly eyes as the primary communication medium. Aido blinks at regular intervals to indicate that he’s awake and ready to hear you.
The visual style of the eyes was chosen to reflect friendliness, but maintain a visual distance from being too human.
Aido has an iris that moves to indicate he has registered some visual input. A little bridge between the eyes balances the eyes and serves as a voice guide when Aido speaks or listens. This makes the user comfortable that Aido is actively engaging with him/her during conversations.
Aido can monitor and manage a lot of your smart home devices as well as connected services. In addition to controls, many of these send notifications that Aido has to display.
Aido uses large flat icons with a sharp background to display notifications. These have been tested to ensure that they can be seen at a distance or when the device is moving, both essential for the environment that Aido will be used in.
While a user may ‘see’ a notification, s/he may often then ‘speak the next command. The visual interface accommodates voice and touch commands, so you can see a notification icon at a distance and just ask Aido to act on it (eg: see an email notification and ask Aido to read out the message)
3. App Interface
In addition to running regular Android apps, Aido comes preloaded with a set of apps specially designed for it. It also has skins for commonly used functions like playing music, setting an alarm and more.
We consciously designed the interface for these elements so that only key visual elements are shown on the UI. While Aido can run entirely on voice commands, having some key controls on the interface brings an element of comfort to users who have learnt to deal with other technology devices.
Users can use voice commands to activate more functionality (eg: show me the complete playlist), but most of this is hidden behind a menu icon, a planned redundancy. Once people get comfortable using voice commands with Aido, we expect them to rarely (or never) make a trip to the menu functionality.
Putting the interface elements together
Given the three distinct visual elements that make up Aido’s UI, we needed a way to allow for seamless transitions between states. This transition needed to be simple to learn, but powerful enough to factor in complex interactions in day-to-day usage.
After trying out multiple visual transitions, we hit upon the solution – a Toblerone-inspired switch menu with the three visual elements (Face, Notifications, App) on a side each.
A simple clockwise flip across the central axis would switch between Face and the App UI and an anti-clockwise flip from Face to a notification. The transition from the App UI to a notification is also just a flip away.
Our preliminary testing with users indicates that this simple model helps them quickly get a hang of Aido’s states and navigate the UI with ease.
Factoring in behavioural elements
As Aido breaks ground being a new category, we also considered behavioral aspects of human-robot interactions.
Research shows that there is a ‘desirable interfacing distance’ – roughly translates to the distance at which a mobile home robot should stop while approaching a human. This ensures that the robot doesn’t violate a human’s zone of comfort. Aido maintains this distance from you unless you walk over to it.
Voice is a key interface element with Aido. While having a conversation, people need an acknowledgement that they’ve been heard. Humans have various visual cues to demonstrate this – direct eye contact and head shakes, for instance.
Aido plays a short ‘ding’ sound to confirm it has finished hearing you. Cues like these make Aido appear more connected, rather than just a gadget.
Aido also has haptic sensors that let you tap it to close a task or wake it up from the sleep state. We found that this simple gesture made Aido appear friendly and connected.
We’ve put in a lot of work thinking through Aido’s interface elements and are waiting for users to start welcoming Aido to their homes. The dream of every designer is to have a happy user. We believe that with Aido, we will have many happy users who see robots as friendly companions at home.
We know that good battery life is key to enjoying usage of a robot like Aido. No one likes a robot that quickly runs out of power.
Aido has a unique dual-battery design – half lead-acid and half nickel-cadmium, to balance the two requirements of a battery for a device like this – a) it should charge fast and b) it should retain power over long periods of time.
Both battery packs are in hot standby mode. Aido also has a patent-pending power management board that optimizes power consumption.
Aido’s battery should last about 8 hours on regular usage, including 2 hours of mobility.
Aido comes with an optional smart charging dock so that you don’t have to remember to charge it
Aido’s smart dock
When Aido runs low on charge, Aido can automatically detect the charging dock and plug itself in.
Docking Aido isn’t easy, and our team had to work through multiple challenges to get this to work well. Our patent pending approach involves three phases to dock Aido:
Initial ranging is done based on Wi-Fi signal strength tracking and object recognition
Once Aido reaches the room where the smart dock is, he tracks IR beacons from the smart dock. When the IR beacons are locked, they guide Aido towards the smart dock.
The smart dock also has a small laser diode. Closer to the dock, Aido tries locking into this signal. This helps Aido judge the orientation and entry into the dock
Aido’s dock has a specially designed set of two charging rings, one of positive polarity and the other negative
The charging rings are designed in a semi-circular fashion to increase probability of touching Aido’s charging circuits, no matter how Aido rolls into the dock
The charging rings have special circuitry to prevent a short circuit in case it encounters a foreign object
Once Aido rolls into the dock, the charging rings are activated and drive charge to Aido.