When the egg-shaped robotic butler Keecker debuted earlier this year at the Consumer Electronics Shouw in Las Vegas, it was billed as the future of home entertainment: a smartphone-controlled, mobile video projector that would allow you to project Netflix or even your email on any surface in your home. With a Kickstarter launching today, Keecker is one step closer to becoming your latest high-tech home gadget, but now, it's more than just a fancy entertainment system.
The latest incarnation of Keecker's HomePod, created by former Google product manager Pierre Lebeau*, includes new sensors and a camera for distance calculation and mapping, plus infrared and ultrasound sensors to help the robot navigate around your house without running into things. In addition to being a moving entertainment system, it can also act as a kind of smart-home hub controlled from your phone.
The first thing the robot is designed to do after it's unwrapped is map your entire house, so you can tell it things like "go to my room" or "go check out the kitchen" without actually having to drive it there yourself. Its sensors gather data on temperature, levels of noise, humidity, and CO2, and will alert you to movement. So you can make sure your house isn't flooding while you're on vacation or check that you cat isn't being cooked like a Thanksgiving turkey on a hot summer day while you're at work. Plus, the 360-degree camera allows you to check in on whether your cat/teenager is destroying your home while you're away (a feature with both useful and creepy potential).
And it still has all the fancy entertainment options the company initially pitched: a projector that can turn any room into a movie theater (or music video dance party) and play music. The system charges itself by sidling up to a wireless wall charger (no plug-in required with the robot itself), uses Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to hook up to your existing home speaker system, and runs on Android (though fear not, Appleites, there's an iPhone app, too). Keecker's designers hope that developers will create third-party apps that take advantage of the robot's movement and sensing capabilities, creating new kinds of video games or allowing users to hook the 'bot up to their Nest thermostat, for instance.
Lebeau sees applications outside the home, too—think of what artists could do in a gallery with a mobile projector for digital pieces. "Digital content is no longer in a plastic box," as Lebeau tells Co.Design. With Keecker, the party (or the art, or the game, or the projection of the Milky Way on your ceiling) can go anywhere.
There's plenty that still needs to be worked out about the almost-knee high, oddly cute robot (the company likens it to a "modern version of R2-D2"). The design of the app hasn't been finalized yet, for instance, and on a test drive at the Fast Company offices, Keecker turned out to be fairly hard to navigate—we may have run it into a few walls and maybe a cubicle or two. This Kickstarter campaign is in part an effort to drum up interest with developers and investors, and figure out what people actually want out of this product, which the company hopes to have shipped by spring of 2015.
Unfortunately for early adopters, it won't be cheap. The robot goes for a retail price of nearly $5,000. One reason, Lebeau says, is that this is a gadget that's meant to last, whether you accidentally kick it, run it into a door, or let your kid sit on it. For a few early birds—the first 20 Kickstarter funders—Keecker will be available for $1,990. Not that a $2,000 fancy robot butler is a super reasonable investment.
*The original version of this post misspelled the name of Keecker's CEO. It is Pierre Lebeau, not Pierre Labeau.