Two years ago, Bengaluru-based Ira Pradhan saw a video of an Anki companion robot and bought it on Amazon.com for ₹25,000. It can be used as a friendly companion robot and programmed to teach children skills like building blocks.
“It’s cute to look at and has big eyes. After the initial face recognition, it will greet you when it sees you. It also helped reduce that fear of machines that I had earlier," says Pradhan.
Robots are no longer limited to factory floors or assembly lines and warehouses. They are slowly making their way into homes, assisting people in their daily chores like cleaning without manual intervention or cooking, while at the same time keeping an eye on their children or helping them through interactive learning.
Interest in home robots is growing in India, resulting in the building up of an ecosystem at home. Household penetration of smart appliances in India is 1.5%, but it’s projected to grow to 9.5% by 2023, said Pulak Satish Kumar, COO of Puresight Systems Pvt. Ltd, the official distributor of iRobot products in India.
Further, companies like iRobot, Milagrow and Emotix are changing the perception about home and companion robots.
“Not many companies from across the globe came to India as there was very little interest in them here. But now, the market is growing and we will see more such products next year," adds Kumar.
Emotix’s Miko 2 is a robot that can chat, play games and narrate stories to children, helping them learn new things in a playful manner. It has been designed keeping designs of homes in mind. Features like time of flight sensors allow it to assess its surroundings, while edge sensors prevent it from tripping over a table or staircase. It has a screen and uses in-built cameras for video chats.
Powered by an emotional intelligence engine developed by Emotix, the robot can remember faces, names and voices and can also sense a child’s mood from the conversation and tailor responses accordingly. Priced at ₹24,999, it is available at all Hamleys outlets in India.
iRobot’s Roomba is another exciting series of home robots designed to keep homes clean and dust-free. Roomba was one of the first home robots featuring autonomous cleaning and remote operability. Its latest versions Roomba i7 (priced at ₹69,900) and Roomba i7+, are a step ahead of their predecessors, offering features like automatic dirt disposal mechanism etc., as detailed in the full review of this product.
Milagrow’s lawn mower robot RoboTiger 2.0, priced at ₹109,990, can mow 6,500 sq. ft on a single charge of three hours. It can be controlled with a remote, has sensors to detect obstacles and can be scheduled to mow on its own at a scheduled time.
Kumar believes countries like India can be huge markets for utility robots like Roomba. Customers are beginning to understand that these devices can be more effective than manual cleaning.
Clearly, robots for home users picking up steam among users in India, and the development and availability of such products is likely to speed up adoption in the country. Volumes should increase soon.