In the not-too-distant future, your aging parents may be reciting "O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?" in times of need.
Set to debut in prototype form late next year, Romeo is a 4.5 foot, 88-pound autonomous companion that aims to assist the elderly and disabled with daily activities. The robot with the romantic-hero moniker could do things like keep tabs on owners' health and summon medical assistance if something appears to go wrong; keep track of small objects such as eyeglasses and remote controls; and help with tasks like taking out the trash, opening and closing doors, or fetching a snack from the fridge.
Romeo has an intuitive computer-human interface based on gesture and voice control. As far as we can tell, though, it does not recite lovestruck Shakespearean sonnets.
Still, even Shakespeare's Juliet might shed the Capulet name for Romeo's "four-vertebra backbone, articulated feet, partially soft torso, and composite leg exoskeleton." Aldebaran also boasts that Romeo has 37 degrees of freedom, and is enhanced with sensors in the eyes, feet, and backbone.
(Rodolphe Gelin, head of cooperative projects at Aldebaran and one of the engineers leading the development of Romeo, goes into more technical detail in this IEEE Spectrum interview).
Romeo will carry a hefty price tag of 250,000 euros ($327,500) when it becomes initially available to project partners and university researchers. Albebaran plans to offer an improved version for hospitals and nursing homes, and eventually roll out the robot to consumers.
Romeo wouldn't be the first humanoid robot designed to keep the elderly company. Others include Robovie R3, a half-size humanoid designed to assist the elderly and disabled in everyday tasks like grocery shopping and navigating train stations.
And Robosoft has delivered Kompai R&D robots for trials with older people people living alone in their own homes, living in residential care homes, and living at home but attending day care.
While it remains to be seen how seniors will get along with these robots, I envy those who get to be tucked in by Romeo. Perhaps the affable bot will purr: "Good night, good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow, that I shall say good night till it be morrow."