LAS VEGAS — It's a common problem for people who ride Segways, scooters or bikes. You ride all the way to the park but now you want to get off and walk around in without carrying or pushing a heavy vehicle. This week at CES 2016, Ninebot and Intel unveiled the new Segway Robot, a device which morphs from everyone's favorite gyroscopic ride into a fully-functional robot that can follow its owner around.
At Intel's CES booth, I had the opportunity to see the new robot up close and get it to follow me across a room. When in normal Segway mode, you can ride on it by balancing your weight forward or backward, something I saw a number of Intel people do. While riding, users must stradle a tiny pole that sits in the middle between the two footpads.
After someone had stopped the Segway, a Ninebot rep hit a button on the pole, and the device lifted up a tiny robot head with an LCD screen on it showing a pair of blinking eyes. As I stood in front of the device, the screen changed to show a live view from its camera with a green box around my body.The robot had correctly identified me as a person and, as I walked around, the robot rolled after me, though at a bit of a distance.
Intel is involved with the project, because the Segway Robot uses an Intel RealSense 3D camera to see the world around it. Because of RealSense's depth-perception capabilities, the robot is able to identify people and avoid bumping into objects as it rolls around.
However, following its owner around is just the tip of a very deep iceberg of possibilities for the Segway Robot. At Intel's press conference, the company demonstrated how the device serve as a butler, answering the front door for you when you don't feel like getting up. It also showed a pair of attachable arms.
The entire robot is powered by the Android operating system and Ninebot / Intel will be releasing an SDK for it as well. There will also be a developer kit version of the Segway Robot available in the second half of this year. Ninebot plans to release a consumer version, but there's no word on release date or pricing.