CES: Samsung Unveils Ballie, a Rolling Robot That Acts as a Home Assistant

Is this the droid you’re looking for?

Samsung Electronics outlined a vision for a future of human-centered technology during a CES 2020 kickoff keynote — starring Ballie, a small, yellow rolling robot reminiscent of BB-8, the spherical Star Wars droid that made its first appearance in “The Force Awakens.” The name also conjures up the automaton hero of Pixar’s “Wall-E.”

Hyun-Suk Kim, president and CEO of Samsung Electronics, described the company’s vision of robots as “life companions” in introducing Ballie to the stage. The camera-equipped rolling robot is designed to react to a user’s needs and to be actively helpful around the house, working as an assistant and a “remote control” for smart-home devices. Kim demonstrated Ballie following him around the stage like a puppy. “I think he likes me,” Kim chuckled.

Samsung is positioning Ballie as an example of the next iteration of the “internet of things” that is focused on enhancing the health and well-being of consumers. In a video accompanying Kim’s demo, Ballie is shown opening blinds in the morning; assisting a woman in a yoga pose by streaming video of her to Samsung’s self-rotating Sero TV; playing with family’s corgi; and cleaning up spilled cereal by invoking a Roomba-style vacuum. (The video is soundtracked with “The Blue Danube,” famously used in “2001: A Space Odyssey” — a cheeky reference to the movie’s menacing HAL 9000 computer.)

Samsung didn’t provide info on pricing or availability of Ballie. During the keynote, a disclaimer on the screen behind Kim noted that the actual features in the product may differ from what appeared in the demo.

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“We believe AI is the future of personalized care,” Sebastian Seung, chief research scientist at Samsung Electronics, said in a statement. “We see on-device AI as central to truly personalized experiences. On-device AI puts you in control of your information and protects your privacy, while still delivering the power of personalization.”

Samsung’s Ballie has a pet-like quality, responding to commands with chirps instead of a human voice. Indeed, it looks to be the Korean consumer-electronics company’s answer to Sony’s AIBO robotic dog companion.

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