Pet robots have been a staple of science fiction for decades, and in recent years we’ve seen a glut of them finally hit the market, with varying success. The latest is Loona, a fairly advanced-looking bot with plenty of tricks up her sleeve and a personality straight out of a Disney movie.
Loona is a four-wheeled robot measuring 6.8 inches (172mm) tall, with a 2.4-inch LCD screen for a face. This screen displays a pair of very cartoonish eyes designed to really sell the illusion that this thing is alive, expressing joy, anger, sadness, curiosity and a range of other emotions. In that sense, it bears an uncanny resemblance to Anki’s Vector robot, which was apparently designed by ex-Pixar animators.
But not only are Loona’s eyes even more detailed, he sports a pair of glowing ear-like antennae on top of his head that add to the effect, rising in happiness or falling in disappointment. Unlike Vector’s square body, Loona has a sleeker shape, with what almost amounts to a neck, and wheels that can be lifted independently like arms.
The end result is a spunky little robot that can do pretty things like a pet. Loona can apparently roam your house freely, respond to petting, come when called, fetch a ball, chase a laser pointer, perform tricks, welcome you home, follow you, explore her surroundings, sneeze, dance, run and play Games.
To pull it all off, Loona comes equipped with a suite of technologies, including microphones for voice commands and cameras to recognize faces and people, navigate around objects, track movement, and avoid falling off edges.
Like any good robot, it is also programmable using an app, which is designed to be simple enough to teach users and especially children the basics of coding while adding new features to their pet. Future updates will apparently allow users to change Loona’s actions, expressions, and interactions, as well as connect the robot to Home Assistant to control other devices.
Loona creator KEYi Tech is currently funding the project through Starter, where it has already raised more than US$1.7 million against its initial goal of US$20,000. Pre-sale promises start at $299, which is $150 off its eventual retail price. If all goes as planned, shipping should begin in February 2023, or backers can pay extra to receive theirs in time for Christmas.
Meet Loona – The Smartest Petbot