Asus just announced possibly the most disarmingly strange-yet-full-of-potential product you'll see all year with the most surreal presentation and announcement video we've seen for some time. And of course it happened at Computex.
The ZenBo robot is a rolling, talking robot that performs Amazon Echo and Google Home-style functions. Priced at $599 US, the ZenBo is by far the most of-piste piece of tech Asus has ever launched, but at this stage it's way too early to tell whether ZenBo has a shot at success.
Initial impressions from the video are mixed. On the one hand, ZenBo has an incredibly annoying, child-like voice and a weirdly creepy and expressive LCD screen face. On the other, its ability to roll around, take photos and interact with smarthome devices is impressive, if accurate of its final form.
The video below was snapped from Asus' press conference and shows how early development is.
We know very little about how exactly the ZenBo would interact with said items: one assumes it'll have to hook into various smart home standards in order to be useful. Asus is looking for development partners in the education, entertainment, healthcare and smarthome sectors.
One of the most surreal moments in the ad is where the father of our hero family falls from a shelf while trying to grab a scarf. A sensor on his wrist senses there's been a calamity and his ZenBo contacts his family for assistance. Luckily everything turns out fine (spoilers). A close shave for the Lancaster family, assisted by ZenBo.
Other tasks ZenBo performs include recipe recital, light switch activation, TV control, picturebook reading and music playing.
There's no information on what powers the ZenBo, how its speech recognition works, which services it uses or how long the battery lasts. There's also no information on its navigation tech or smartphone app. This is very early stuff, so you'll need to be patient if ZenBo has caught your imagination.