Your robotic grandchild

Amy “with” Ohmnilabs co-founder Thuc Vu.

This is what robots look like these days. I met this little guy at a community event in Walnut Creek, where its creator introduced it to the room. This might be the future of grandchild visits.

The robot itself is like a combination of a Roomba (the vacuum cleaner that runs itself) and an iPad. “Visitors” log in to the robot from their own phones or computers and a video feed pops up on the owner’s end automatically. With a high-end microphone and speakers, the owner can have an easy conversation with their visitor over the screen. The visitor can control the robot to travel around the owner’s home, even over area rugs and cords on the floor. Basically, it’s like giving your kid a key to your house…but without the need to provide them with snacks when they come to visit.

HomeCare Assistance, a national provider of home healthcare services, has placed a bunch of these robots in a local retirement community, where we heard they’ve been enthusiastically received. The robot’s creator even told a story of saving someone’s life—an adult child “visited” his mother and navigated the robot to her bedroom, where she was in diabetic shock and unable to call for an ambulance or answer the phone. He was able to call 911 for her in time.

Those in the room were interested, but skeptical. Most of the concerns were over security. The robot’s creator, Ohmnilabs, said that none of the data from conversations is stored, and that the owner can activate a privacy setting on the robot to avoid unwanted middle-of-the-night visitors.

Ohmnilabs says the robots will be available in Fall 2017. They cost $1,399 to pre-order, and come in black or white. Here at Arrive Rides, we prefer more color and are thinking about hosting a robot-decorating contest in Fall 2018. Let us know if you’re going to buy one and you can be our first contestant.