Segway's new scooter is a cute, $1,300 rolling robot that carries your stuff and follows you around - and it's straight out of science-fiction
- Segway Robotics is opening pre-orders for Loomo, a robotic scooter.
- A cross between a Segway scooter and an Amazon Echo, Loomo is a $1,300 two-wheel transport that responds to voice commands.
- In addition to transporting you, it can take your picture on command, automatically follow you around, and act as a telepresence robot that you control remotely.
What would happen if you combined a hoverboard with Amazon's Alexa smart assistant?
You might get something like Loomo, a new robotic scooter from Segway, the makers of the original self-balancing transporter. The device, which will be available for preorder on Indiegogo starting Tuesday, can act like a Segway scooter, follow owners around like R2D2 when they're not riding it, and can take pictures and video on command.
Segway showed off the device at this year's CES trade show, and it drew big crowds when it followed company employees, said Adam Bao, a company spokesman.
"It's definitely a big crowd pleaser," he said.
But it won't come cheap. The device will sell for $1,300, or more than double what you'd pay for Amazon's most expensive smart speaker and one of the top-selling hoverboards combined.
However, this shouldn't be your average crowdfunding campaign, where contributors often have to wait months on end to receive the products they've backed. Segway has plans to begin shipping Loomos in May.
Loomo is a scooter with smarts
The device looks similar to Segway's miniLite, one of the company's latest and smallest scooters. It has a platform riders can stand on, relatively large tire-covered wheels that can traverse uneven terrain, and a built-in battery pack that takes about three hours to recharge, but will allow it to go about 22 miles once full, according to the company. It rides much like a Segway scooter; to get it to go somewhere, you simply lean in that direction.
What makes it different from other scooters and hoverboards is its smarts and sensors. On a stand in the middle of the device, the Loomo has a touchscreen display that acts as both its face and the interface owners use to interact with it.
The screen alternately lists Loomo's apps, shows what Loomo's camera sees, and displays a circle that vaguely looks like the device's eye. The eye indicates when Loomo is attentive to your voice commands.
Among the things you can tell Loomo to do are to follow you around, take your picture or shoot video, or "transform" from its scooter to its robot mode - or vice versa - by turning its screen 90 degrees. One cool feature: If you tell Loomo, "let's go," it will drive right up in front of you, turn around, then twist its screen head 90 degrees so you can get on board.
Thanks to its "follow" feature, Loomo can act as a kind of robotic sherpa, carrying your stuff around - at least if you balance it properly.
Open for development
In the future, it might be able to do much more. The device runs a custom version of Android that Segway has already opened up to developers. The company plans to "continuously" update the software and offer new apps for the device.
"We want people to build on top of it," Bao said.
Built into Loomo is Intel's RealSense depth-sensing camera system, which is what it uses to identify owners and follow them around. The device has other sensors that help it avoid obstacles.
In addition to being able to ride Loomo and command it via voice, owners will be able to use a smartphone app as as remote control for the device. They can even have it act as telepresence robot, relaying their faces to other people via Loomo's screen and being able to talk with them via its speakers.
Loomo has been in the works for a while now. Segway unveiled a prototype of it at CES two years ago, then launched a developer version last year. The company offers a more sophisticated version of the Loomo, called the Loomo Go, that acts as a delivery robot.
Segway is targeting early technology adopters and "fellow dreamers like us" with its crowdfunding campaign, Bao said. It's encouraging consumers who are interested in the Loomo to order it through the campaign, because they'll get its "early adopter" price. The retail price is likely to be $1,800.