Hands-on review: Ebo Air smart home companion robot


Alone at home ? Lonely animals at home? Maybe a cheerful companion robot could cheer everyone up.

Enabot’s Ebo Air is billed as a “Family Companion Robot”, a mobile, self-charging, family-friendly robotic companion designed to help people connect with loved ones anytime, from anywhere.

Of course, we can already communicate with our loved ones through the phone, messages or video chat, but what this little robotic friend will do is propel itself into your house at scheduled intervals, chat on its own, film and taking pictures (saving either to its 16GB external memory or up to 256GB card), entertaining pets and children as you go, monitoring your home for unknown intruders and being generally a helpful little soul.

In its core functionality, Ebo Air is reminiscent of Kuri, the home companion robot created by Mayfield Robotics, whose cute appeal stole the show at CES 2017 and again at CES 2018, before being abruptly terminated by the parent company. Bosch later that year.

Kuri was just under 3 feet tall, making Ebo Air a pet for Kuri (if she still existed), at least in size and stature: Ebo Air is approximately the size of a small grapefruit or an oversized cricket ball. It won’t dominate the house, but you might want to keep an eye out for it when you walk around so you don’t accidentally stand on it.

Image credit: Enabot

In fact, you get a set of silicone “feathers” in the box, which attach to the top of Ebo Air’s head, giving it a sporty, custom look, but also acting as a clear visual signifier (and a toy for curious cats). Ebo Air also has two black racing stripes on its white body and a rear spoiler, further reinforcing its image as a decidedly modern and go-getter home robot.

Onboard artificial intelligence means Ebo Air should be able to learn to recognize and identify known people and pets and automatically check in, track and track them around the house, away, thus filling the companion side of his file.

Ebo Air certainly has its charms and it helpfully fills in those times when you are too busy/lazy to amuse your cat/dog/child (a laser pointer is on board, which projects a few inches in front of the device) or you are physically far away from the House. You can view the activity in your home from the sofa or from a remote location via the Enabot app on your phone, with good quality video captured by Ebo Air’s built-in 1080p HD camera, complete with microphones and speakerphones. two-way speakers. to discuss.

Ebo Air Inline 4

Image credit: Enabot

You can, for example (and for the lols), drive Ebo Air around your home using the app’s touch controls and when you encounter another inhabitant – be it human or animal – scare them by talking to it (or just making weird noises) through Ebo Air’s speakers. Ebo Air also regularly emits a small excited cheer to itself (“Eboooo!”), so it is very rarely entirely silent. The volume of it can be controlled from the app, fortunately.

Incidentally, we still refer to Ebo Air as “it”, but the voice sounds more feminine than masculine. There is no way, at present, to select alternate voices like you can with some satnavs, for example. There is some personality, however; it’s not just a monosyllabic robotic voice for everything.

Ebo Air rides on a set of brushless (quiet running) motorized wheels with tank-style rubber tracks to help it navigate rough terrain, e.g. rugs, carpets, metal door strips, etc It can’t climb, and even a slightly larger than normal height difference at the sill between rooms can cause EA to tip over, though it’s also reasonably effective at straightening. Part of the tumbler’s design was to make sure EA wouldn’t get stuck on its back like a beetle, its wheels rolling through the air. When it encounters a wall, a closed door or a skirting board, it turns around and starts off in a new direction, much like a robot vacuum cleaner.

Ebo Air online 1

Image credit: Enabot

You need to download and sign up for the Enabot app first, otherwise there is absolutely nothing you can do with Ebo Air: it has no out-of-the-box functionality independent of the app. You can’t just play with it, like a toy. This isn’t necessarily a big deal, although we did have some issues retrieving the necessary verification code from the Enabot server that would allow us to complete the setup procedure. We tried several email addresses, from different domains, but got nothing in return. Finally, we tried another email address – and this one worked instantly. There was no explanation as to the nature of the problem with the other email addresses. Not exactly a seamless experience, but Enabot’s customer service was very helpful afterwards.

Once you’re in the app, you connect Ebo Air to your local Wi-Fi network (2.4 GHz or 5.8 GHz Wi-Fi network frequency bands) and scan a QR code using Ebo Air’s camera. You can also choose to set up a cloud connection to upload photos and videos and access Ebo Air remotely. If you want this feature, you need to allow the app to use the microphone, your camera, your photo library, your location, and your home network. If you’d rather not go that far, you don’t have to; Ebo Air will still work well simply as a local robotic toy in your home. Just be aware that the monitoring aspect of home security and remote access requires the cloud and all your details to work effectively.

If you are interested in the security aspect, Ebo Air offers 24/7 video recording, motion detection and infrared night vision. Given its small size, Ebo Air can travel all over your home like a mobile CCTV system, monitoring every nook and cranny. At least it can travel an entire floor of your home: Ebo Air doesn’t do stairs. That said, it’s been fitted with a three-sided ‘ToF’ (time-of-flight) sensor to recognize a significant fall when it comes to one, so stairs shouldn’t present a deal breaker. Ebo Air could thus be used on any floor of your home for security patrols. The AI ​​aspect of Ebo Air also means that if it detects any unknown objects or people in the house, the system can automatically notify you through the app.

Ebo Air online 2

Image credit: Enabot

We also found it easy to move Ebo Air between homes, something we wondered about when we started testing. We simply reset Ebo Air via the button on the base and started the setup process again at the following address. So far we’ve tested it in three different locations, with a variety of animals and people.

The results varied. All humans loved him; some of the animals, not so much. The various cats that encountered it were either mildly curious, completely uninterested, or completely terrified, especially at night in darker rooms, when Ebo Air’s pulsating lights and red laser pointer didn’t sit well with them. The more time our test cats spent with Ebo Air at home, the more they accepted it, although the pet entertainment aspect probably wasn’t enough to justify the purchase on its own. Ebo Air’s appeal is throughout the package.

That said, if you’re worried about your pet being home alone during the day, Ebo Air’s regular rollabouts could at least distract and entertain pet cats, dogs, rabbits, and more. There are five pet options, which include Ebo Air performing various tricks, turns, and other moves for their amusement. There are no detachable pieces for a pet to eat or break off (other than those optional removable feathers) and Ebo Air is way too big for a pet (or child) to fit. swallow, so it should be perfectly safe to leave it to itself free-roaming devices.

Ebo Air Inline 5

Image credit: Enabot

It’s absolutely lovely when Ebo Air tells you “I’m coming home to charge now” when the battery is low, then autonomously returns to the charging dock, performing the necessary maneuvers upon arrival to successfully mount the slight ramp. We never got tired of watching it. A full charge only takes about an hour. The runtime is a few hours, but you’re unlikely to use it continuously for that long. Whenever you’re done playing with it, you can send it back to the charging station via the app, so it’s always charged.

You can also program messages for Ebo Air and it will come to remind you when the time comes. It’s also quite lovely. There are a dozen pre-programmed options (“Get up”, “Go to bed”, “Drink water”), although unfortunately you can’t create bespoke messages for Ebo Air to deliver (at least, not yet).

This highlights the limitations of Ebo Air: what you see is what you get. It does a lot of things, and most of them are efficient and fun, but you can’t interact with Ebo Air the same way you can with Siri or Alexa. You can’t talk to it and get a nuanced answer, so while Ebo Air does provide some sort of companionship, it’s not really a fully fledged companion robot.

There are also some slightly awkward messages in the documentation and app (e.g. “Your EBO is connected to the Wi-Fi network. Before reconnecting with EBO, please reset the EBO first.”) that could be easily smoothed. This may be done in a future software update.

Still, there’s a lot to like about Ebo Air. It’s not perfect, but it’s an interesting decision to have a smart little home robot that (a) doesn’t look like the typical home robot and (b) isn’t the size of a small child. Ebo Air can easily fit into any home, be it a mansion or a playhouse.

It’s not exactly cheap, but at the same time, it’s good value for money considering the range of functions it offers. If you have pets and people at home, want to watch over them and your property while you’re away, like cool tech gadgets with a certain personality, and just want another “presence” in your house to keep you company, that will talk to you and make you smile, Ebo Air ticks all these boxes.

$229 (£192)

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