BIG-i, the Personalized Family Robot

It looks like a rolling trash can, but it's a teachable social robot for your home.

By Dave Johnson

Aside from gadgets like Roomba, we're still a long way from living in a Jetsons universe in which we robots roll around the home, seeing to our needs. But we're getting closer.

BIG-i is the latest home robot to show up on Kickstarter, and it's actually pretty exciting. Sure, it looks like a rolling trash bin with a huge single eye on top. But  watch the video: If BIG-i delivers on its Kickstarter promises, it'll be a robot that can observe its environment, recognize the faces of family members, and learn skills via voice command. For example, you can tell BIG-i, "if you see Billy in bed, turn on the lights in his room."

Its makers are designing BIG-i to be compatible with home appliances that work with infrared remotes, and it will be able to control select devices via Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. It has a battery life of 4 to 5 hours and automatically returns to its dock to recharge.

A project this big has its share of risks, and we worry a little about the range of things BIG-i is supposed to do well. The development team intends to create a robot that can roll around, navigate through your home, and locate its charger to top off its power, and perform facial recognition and understand gestures (such as waves and raised hands). And then there's the whole area of speech recognition and parsing plain English commands. That's a handful. But if you trust the development team, you can get on board for about $750. If it stays on schedule, the BIG-i should be available next spring.

Campaign: BIG-i

Pledges start at: $599

Campaign ends: 11/03/2016