Keepon may be the cutest robot you'll ever see. Until now he's been a $30,000 research device, intended for academics and medics who use the bot in therapy sessions. But soon a $40 consumer model will hit, to help fund the research edition.
If you know anything about robots, or you're a fan of viral videos on YouTube, you'll know Keepon. He's the deceptively simple-looking dancing "toy" that looks like two yellow tennis balls stacked atop each other, standing on a simple black platform and with a rudimentary face even a Muppet would snigger at. But behind the simple facade is a complex of engineering and programming that lets Keepon detect music, and create dance moves that sync perfectly with the beat. He also reacts to touch, and this has been key to therapeutic uses of the little bot that have included helping children with autism understand emotions better.
But the Pro edition of Keepon costs $30,000—he really is a professional-grade toy, you see.
Until now, when BeatBots have decided to work with Wow! Stuff to build a consumer grade version that's likely to cost as little as $40. The new "My Keepon" will be simpler, use lower-grade construction and engineering and he may not have the same skill-set as his cleverer sibling (we're guessing the ability to teleoperate his moves may go, for one)—but BeatBots is promising to preserve the aspects of the design that give Keepon its distinctive character.
And it's all for a good cause: BeatBots statement notes "The success of My Keepon will directly support the social welfare goals at the heart of the Keepon story," noting that "a percentage of the profit from each My Keepon will go towards subsidizing and donating BeatBots' research-grade robots to therapists and researchers." And lest you worry the robot will go on sale at every supermarket and corner store (like the essentially similar, and yet technically worlds-apart, dancing flowers-in-ports from years ago—remember that craze?), BeatBots notes it's choosing "retail partners who also feel proud to sell him."
Still mystified? Here's Keepon doing his thing with some schoolkids, and also one of the music videos that arguably propelled the robot to superstardom in 2007:
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