Apple’s Home Robots Need To Be More Than Just iPads on Wheels

If anyone can make personal robots cool, it'd be Apple.

Double 3 self-driving videoconferencing robot
Double Robotics

It took Apple 10 years to finally pull the plug on its electric vehicle project, and now, with plans for the Apple Car officially scrapped, the company is left with a void for what its next ambitious project should be. According to a report from Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman, home robots could fill that gap.

Apple reportedly has a skunkworks team that has been working on a couple of robot designs, including one similar to Amazon’s Astro bot and another that sounds like an iPad that robotically swivels and can track your face. We’re not getting our hopes up since Gurman notes that Apple is still very early in the development process, but if anyone could make personal robots feel more approachable, it would be Apple.

Amazon’s Astro provides a good template for what not to do when it comes to home robots.


Tons of Possibilities

Apple reportedly has been working on two personal robot designs: one that’s a mobile robot that follows you around the house and another that’s meant to sit on a table and mechanically move a smart display. The Bloomberg report also points out that the smart display idea has been scrapped and re-added to Apple’s product roadmap several times over the years.

While these early concepts sound straightforward, there’s a lot of room for Apple to make its personal robots stand out. The most obvious answer would be a robot that can follow you around while you make a FaceTime call. Gurman even says that the team behind the personal robots considered having the robot “mimic head movements,” like nodding during a call.

On the other hand, Apple could incorporate things like Fall Detection or making emergency calls into its personal home robot. Safety has already become a core selling point of devices like the Apple Watch — why not pivot that success into a robot that’s constantly underfoot? If there’s one way to make people fall in love with robots, it’s designing one that saves your life.

And there’s the health applications, too. Sure, having a camera fixed on you all the time might not be a comfortable idea for everyone, but for (as an example) elderly people who are at increased risk of being seriously hurt in a fall or need reminders for important things like medication, a home robot makes sense. And on top of that, it could be an effective way to expand Apple’s identity as a health-tech company.

FaceTime on a robot that follows you would be great, but Apple should set the bar higher.


Can Apple Succeed Where Amazon Failed?

Apple is obviously far from making any official announcements about personal robots, so there are more questions than answers at this point — price, for example. Amazon introduced the Astro for homes for $1,450 and later made a version for businesses for $2,350, but the high price tags contributed to the overall lack of interest.

If the price wasn’t a big enough barrier, there was also the fact that Astro wasn't particularly good at carrying out the tasks it was designed to do. But maybe, with tie-ins like FaceTime, Fall Detection, or whatever original ideas Apple’s brain trust dreams up, the case for robot butlers could be made after all.

If that moment actually comes, let’s just hope it costs a little less than a Vision Pro.

Related Tags