Consumer robots aren’t really a thing yet, but some specialized robots are starting to edge toward the mainstream. One of those is a big-eyed little robot named Moxie, which its maker, Pasadena, California-based Embodied, designed to be an emotionally intelligent friend to a child. Moxie uses a powerful natural language model to carry on conversation; in fact, it starts getting to know its child friend from the moment it’s turned on. Moxie uses computer vision AI to recognize the child (and others) and to detect eye contact and facial expressions. It’s also a serious child development tool: Moxie tells stories and plays games to inspire creativity. Embodied put Moxies in 100 households as a way of learning some lessons from experience. Some of those kids really needed a friend, as the pandemic kept them home from school and cut them off from their social circle. Embodied CEO Paolo Pirjanian says his company’s small team needed a special blend of IQ and EQ (emotional intelligence) to bring Moxie to life. Thanks to being located right next to Burbank, he says, Embodied was able to recruit people from animation studios to create Moxie’s cartoon-cute look and feel. AI specialists, engineers, and childhood development specialists worked alongside them to build the robot’s personality and skills. New Moxies will start shipping to new homes, and finding new friends, in April.
Kids may be just the start. “It doesn’t take much imagination to understand that the product could help the elderly, who are also socially isolated, especially during the pandemic,” Pirjanian said. “We could help them with things like restoration of memory, by talking to them about memories of their lives.”