We spent an evening with Buddy the companion robot, and it was adorable

That face

Buddy the robot has been taking Indiegogo by storm, raising more than 3x his $100,000 goal. This open-source ‘companion robot’ is an 8-inch tablet with a body, essentially – but he’s adorable. And we’d know – we’ve met him.

Kryten’s cuter cousin

You can use Buddy as:

  • A Skype camera that follows you around on calls
  • A companion for older, younger or lonelier people
  • A messaging centre, reading out messages sent to his app
  • A calendar, alarm clock and to-do-list maker, with reminders

And while you can do most of those functions on a normal phone or tablet, having spent some time with Buddy, there’s an emotional aspect that tech alone can’t offer. Thirty-odd grown adults crowded round him at the launch event, cooing besottedly. He’s very endearing, and it’s easy to imagine how having him wheeling around the house would feel like company.

Hardened tech journos were tripping over themselves to be the one he came over to. And even when the COO of Blue Frog Robotics gave a speech, all eyes remained firmly on Buddy:

This is how you sell tech, people: make it lovable. The team at France-based Blue Frog Robotics have nailed it.

Cheaper than an iPhone 6

Another good sales strategy is competitive pricing, if you can manage it – and Blue Frog have. An entry-level Buddy is £450 with UK shipping, which is a lot lower than it feels like this sort of thing should cost. The Buddy brochure says, he’s “accessible to everyone” which might be a bit of a stretch, but it’s still lower than you’d imagine for a personal robot at this point in the nascent development of house robotics. Most of us carry smartphones worth more.

Blue Frog say that Buddy creator Rodolphe Hasselvander made him because “After watching movies like Star Wars, he became convinced that one day, we will all have our own R2D2 at home. Time progressed, and the world still woefully lacks R2D2’s for the family. Rodolphe decided to take matters into his own hands” – and he’s done a pretty good job. Even the slightly weird intro video is heart-melting – and significantly less creepy than Pepper‘s:

When we hung out with Buddy at WeWork‘s Devonshire Square office this week, we weren’t totally convinced we needed one, but that wasn’t important. Because we wanted one. SO much. Such is the power of love.

Blue Frog also pluck at your heartstrings in their marketing. Rather than asking you to back Buddy, or fund or even buy him, they ask you to adopt him, like he’s the sad puppy at the pound. Go ahead and tell me this face doesn’t make you feel things:

The replies to that tweet say it all:

And Buddy’s sweet Twitter replies in Franglais just added to the adorbs:

Ahh.

Sadly, Buddy was a bit confused at the event because there were so many faces and voices around him – he really needs a House Party mode. After all, you’re going to want to get everyone round to meet him.

Still, in a quiet room, Blue Frog showed us how well he reacts to voice commands:

 

His speech leaves a bit to be desired, with the mouth animation often going on long after he’s finished talking and again, some slightly ropey English. But he’s a work in progress, to be fair.

We didn’t see some of Buddy’s more advanced features at the event because they’re not ready yet, but in theory he’ll also be able to:

  • Play games with kids, including hide and seek
  • Act as a watchman when you’re away – you can use his camera to look around, and he can apparently detect fires, floods and burglars
  • Look after older people – he can detect falls and provide medication reminders, as well as offering video calls – though Blue Frog claim he can use Facetime, which would be a bit of a feat for a non-Apple device…!
  • Monitor appliances and energy usage

These kind of value-added features make Buddy a much more attractive proposition than just a tablet on wheels. Speaking of which, it’s genuinely creepy when he’s not in face mode:

This is the future, folks. You fall in love with a bumbling, adorable robot, and then one day you wake up next to the Windows 8 desktop.

If you’re as smitten with Buddy as we are, he’s available to adopt now on Indiegogo, shipping around this time next year. ‘Til then, there’s always cats.


Main image: Blue Frog Robotics

Holly Brockwell
About Holly Brockwell 285 Articles
Tech addict Holly founded Gadgette in 2015, and won Woman of the Year for it. She's firmly #TeamAndroid, has ambitions to become a robot, and beat all other Hollies to her awesome Twitter handle.