While popular culture has consistently served up a vision of the future that features robot servants at our beck and call, they’ve been slow to infiltrate our homes so far. Despite the development of increasingly sophisticated robotics and artificial intelligence, domestic robots have yet to take off.
Temi could be in the vanguard of a new wave of robot butlers designed to cater to our whims, or it could be a glorified smart speaker on wheels. We took it for a spin at IFA in Berlin to find out exactly what it’s capable of.
Standing just over 3 feet high, Temi has an Android tablet for a head, with a 10.1-inch screen. Behind that and a little lower there’s a kind of shelf that also works as a wireless charging pad for phones. The main body is curved with a couple of midrange speakers in the chest area and then a subwoofer built into the base.
There’s a lot of clever tech inside Temi.
There’s a lot of clever tech inside Temi. Cameras, sensors, microphones, and more enable it to hear you and track your movements, tilting its head up and down and turning around. Temi can also navigate around using lidar to detect and avoid any obstacles. Tap it on the head or ask it, and it will track and follow you around, turning as you do to ensure that it’s always facing you.
You can use a range of voice commands with Temi. Just like any other voice assistant it can answer basic questions, tell you about the weather, and play music and video. There’s support for a few major apps such as Google, Reddit, YouTube, CNN, Yelp, Deezer, and Uber, but because Temi runs a modified version of Android, developers have to add support.
If you’ve ever used an Amazon Echo Show, then the tablet portion of Temi will be easy to understand. While it currently uses a proprietary voice assistant, there are strong rumors that the final product will have Google Assistant on board. That would be a good thing because, even allowing for a noisy show floor, we weren’t too impressed with its voice recognition during our demo – it frequently misunderstood commands, even from the makers.
We’ve seen telepresence robots before, but Temi is quite sophisticated in that department. We tried out a video call and it worked very well, although it doesn’t show you from a very flattering angle unless you sit down because it’s only 3 feet tall.
You can chat as you walk around with Temi following you, but the caller on the other end can also swipe left or right to turn Temi, or tap and hold on spots in your room to command Temi to go there. They don’t have to be too precise, as Temi will plot its own route to avoid obstacles.
If you did buy a Temi, one of the first things you would do is set up a map of your home for it, so you can tell it to go the kitchen or the dining room, for example. It will remember the rooms you define and they can also be used during video calls.
Temi comes with a charging base station and will keep itself charged up so you don’t have to worry about plugging it in. Apparently, it will decide when to charge based on your schedule and remaining power to ensure it’s ready to go when you need it.
For all its sophistication, Temi is essentially offering a smart speaker experience in mobile form.
It has Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity you have the option of adding cellular data support.
For all its sophistication, Temi is essentially offering a smart speaker experience in mobile form. It works well as a telepresence robot, and it might be nice sometimes to have your music follow you from room to room, but you’re going to have to pay a big premium for that mobility.
If you consider that the base model costs $1,500, then there’s a good chance it would be cheaper to fit our every room in your home with a mix of Amazon Echo Shows and other speakers. It wouldn’t be as cool as having a robot that can follow you, of course, but all you’d really miss out on is the telepresence functionality and that remote-control element.
It’s also worth noting that Temi can’t climb stairs, so it will work best in homes that are on one level.
There is going to be a higher end model of Temi available for $1,900 which adds a 4K display, more powerful Harman Kardon speakers, and a more luxurious finish.
Ultimately, we’re not sure Temi is worth the investment unless the telepresence feature is something you would use a lot or you have another specific use case in mind. Temi will be available from October this year.