New Scientist article “I am a huge fan of the robot that is a remote assistant that can connect with you through the Internet,” says Andrew Coyle, who is leading the project.
“The idea is that you would tell it about what you want to do and it would give you a list of things you want done and then give you an automated way to get the job done.”
The project has been around for a while, and it is also being pursued by researchers at the University of Sussex in England, where Coyle works.
“There’s this huge interest in this technology because it could be used in a variety of ways,” he says.
“One idea is to create a ‘data warehouse’ to store all your data.
This could be a huge storage device.
Or you could use it to build an online personal assistant that would automatically send emails, give you reminders and more.”
“I’m not sure it will work as well as a real assistant, but I’d love to see it.”
Coyle’s team is aiming for a cost-effective solution, with the hope that by making the robot more accessible and convenient, it could inspire other researchers to tackle the problem of making remote assistants work for everyday people.
They have also been working on an “automated remote education service” that could be made for the Amazon Echo.
“A lot of people use Alexa, and we want to make that even easier,” Coyle says.
But it will be a long, slow road.
For one thing, Coyle and his team are using a Raspberry Pi computer to control the robot.
“That’s a little bit of a pain to control because it has a microcontroller and it’s not very easy to program,” Caneys company says on its website.
“But that’s why we’re trying to get it on Amazon and they’ve given us a really good deal on a Raspberry Pis so that we can get this to market.”
Caneies team hopes to launch their service on Amazon Echo devices next year, although the first product to do so will be for the Echo Dot.
For now, the robot is being controlled through a web browser and a voice assistant.
“I would be very happy to have this on Amazon if they would let us use it,” Coyles says.
The robots “wouldn’t be able to do anything about it,” he adds.
“They’d be able tell you ‘OK, here’s the list of all your appointments’, but that’s really not what they do.”
The team is also hoping to eventually offer a set of apps and services that could help people to do things like check email and book a flight.
“We are very optimistic about this technology,” says Coyle.
“It could be an amazing way to connect with people.”