Remember Ballie, Samsung’s spherical home robot from CES 2020? I sure didn’t — until Samsung brought it back at this year’s keynote with a few on-trend AI upgrades.
The new and improved Ballie, which Samsung previewed during its press conference at CES 2024 in Las Vegas today, is around the size of a bowling ball, packing a battery that’s designed to last two to three hours. Ballie sports a spatial lidar sensor to help it navigate rooms and obstacles, as well as a 1080p projector with two lenses that allows the robot to project movies and video calls and even act as a second PC monitor.
“Use [Ballie] to project images and stream content on walls, and it can automatically adjust the picture based on the wall distance and lighting conditions,” Samsung writes in press release. “It [can] automatically detect people’s posture and facial angle and adjust the optimal projection angle for you.”
Ballie can be controlled with voice commands or, intriguingly, requests sent via text message (e.g. “play a movie on the nearest wall”). In the latter case, Ballie will respond with the aid of a chatbot to confirm requests before taking action.
Like other home robots in its class, Ballie can automatically turn on smart lights and, thanks to a built-in infrared transmitter, “non-smart” devices like air conditioners and older TVs. And the robot can map a floor plan, identifying where smart devices might be located inside a home.
Samsung’s promising a lot beyond these basics, like automatic reminders to water plants around the house, access to remote medical services (for older household members) and personalization depending on who the robot senses nearby. “With its built-in front [and] rear camera, [Ballie] can detect and analyze its surroundings and learn recurring user patterns,” Samsung continues in the press release.
But the details of these — as with Ballie’s availability and pricing — have yet to be firmed up.
The question is, will any of these features compel homeowners to buy Ballie when — or if, rather — it reaches market? Home robots have never been a slam-dunk, as recently demonstrated by Amazon’s attempt. Another promising attempt within the last few years, Mayfield Robotics, which hoped to sell a home robot in partnership with Bosch, ceased operations before shipping a single unit to early customers.
Perhaps Samsung will fare better. We’ll have to wait and see.