A layperson’s exploration of all things voice

January 14, 2020

Samsung’s “Ballie”: A More Functional Robot

A few years ago, I was in Tokyo and saw a Jibo robot. It was freaky. This Voicebot.ai article describes Samsung’s new robot. It’s a ball that can follow you around – as opposed to prior robots that were stationary – and interact with you. It has more functionality than prior home-oriented robots, as this excerpt illustrates:

Samsung is also looking beyond simple request-and-response interactions of earlier social robots and smart speakers. Demonstrations of Ballie show it identifying problems in the home such as spilled food and a tipped over plant. In both cases, Ballie proactively called a robot vacuum or air purifying system to the location of the problem. There was no requirement for the homeowner to take action or even know an issue had taken place.

Another example involved Ballie observing a demonstrator watering a household plant. The woman’s task list for that day included, “Water Plants” and Ballie automatically checked off that task as complete. These are examples of virtual assistants with agency. That means they are granted authority to take actions on behalf of the user even without an explicit command. Google Duplex and the forthcoming Ring Doorbell Concierge are other early examples of voice assistants with agency. This is clearly a feature set that the leading voice assistant providers assume will be important and beneficial to users.