We hear plenty of discussion about robots taking over our jobs, so it's a refreshing change to hear about a robot designed to create them instead. Its name is Nobot, and what makes this machine unique is that it's largely controlled remotely by a human being rather than by a set of software algorithms.
The Indiegogo campaign describes the concept as being "like a person in a robot suit," which is a helpful way of understanding it – as long as you realize the person is sat behind a computer somewhere else in the world. Nobot owners get a clever robot to help around the house without needing to spend time programming; Nobot operators get to earn money from home.
Childcare, healthcare, gardening ... there's conceivably no limit to what Nobot could do. The plan is to set up a marketplace for operators and owners, so if you've bought a shiny new Nobot you can easily find someone with the skills and expertise to work it for you – even if you just want some company in the evening or someone to fold the laundry.
The robot unit itself is relatively low-tech, combining a tough plastic exoskeleton with a Raspberry Pi that handles most of the unit's operations. Each Nobot is fitted with a rotating camera, touchscreen, speaker, microphone and wireless connectivity. Of course the real smarts are provided by the human at the other end of the video feed.
That human element saves the Nobot team from having to program a sophisticated operating system. It also means Nobot owners don't have to spend an evening with a user manual to work out how to get the robot to do their bidding – they simply speak out the instructions as necessary and let the Nobot do its work. Owners can also operate the Nobot themselves, should they want to keep an eye on their home from afar, for example.
The inventors behind the project are currently aiming to raise US$19,000 on Indiegogo to make their product a reality. The early bird price for a Nobot is set at $399, with shipping expected in November if the campaign meets its goals.