The concept of robots that talk used to either be in the realm of science fiction books, TV and movies, or a multimillion dollar (or more) research project funded by the government or large corporations.
While the latter part of that statement may be true (via Amazon’s skunkworks division Lab126), a new innovation brings such technology to smaller companies and its power into the hands of regular consumers.
Here’s how it happened.
From Amazon’s Lab to the World
Amazon broke new ground in announcing the Echo speaker alongside its Alexa intelligent voice assistant in November 2014. That’s when it took smart speakers powered by voice assistant technology from the lab and into the home, giving it real-world applications.
For all its early limitations, it was an impressive feat of engineering to produce, then bravely charging into consumers’ homes.
Today, as the technology continued to improve and its many skills continuing to grow at a brisk pace, its adoption has continued unabated, making millions of happy owners able to ask, command and talk to machines in a natural way, by voice.
Amazon has since grown its Echo family of products to include video displays, and partnerships with manufacturers of smart devices, all of them powered by the Alexa platform and voice assistant artificial intelligence (AI).
But that’s not all, because Amazon also licensed and distributed its Alexa platform to other companies and their products, from voice-enabled robot vacuums all the way to humanoid bots.
One of these products is the Lynx robot from UBTech that moves and performs like a robot, with some of the expected modern-day features. But it is also imbued with a special gift that makes it stand apart: it is powered with Alexa.
Let me tell you more.
Lynx – Alexa Makes it a Good Humanoid Robot that Talks
From the same company that brought us the Star Wars First Order Stormtrooper bot comes a different robot that is different in style, function, and source of intelligence, but similar intentions: Lynx.
UBTech’s Lynx is sized like a large action figure but has real robot-like abilities. It walks, swivels and turns. But its main difference is that it has Amazon’s Alexa digital assistant AI built-in.
This allows it to go beyond a regular robotic humanoid to a complete, AI-powered machine, from hardware to software (or wetware, if you will), able to do robotic things but also able to recognize your spoken orders and fulfilling them without you having to program anything.
Think of it like one of those increasingly popular smart speakers that everyone is loving– like Amazon’s Echo or Google Home– but with limbs, and that moves.
And because it’s driven by Alexa, it has the power of an AI that cost billions to develop so it will recognize what you say, respond back, and also give you access to any and all of the thousands of Alexa skills that will make your unit do things no ordinary bot could do.
Here’s how it swings.
Review & Rating
- Easy setup
- Has a wide range of movement and abilities
- (Amazon) Alexa inside
- Multiple use cases, from entertainment to serious functions
- Comes in useful "modes" with specific benefits such as Surveillance Mode and Avatar Mode
- Great with games
- Does not require programming or assembly from a kit
- Comes with a mobile app that expands its functions
- Continual updates so Lynx continues to improve and get smarter
- Speaker sound from a robotic unit is impressive
- Expensive (though worth it, especially if you're into robotics or appreciate the many benefits of Alexa, and on an articulating unit)
- It walks fine, but can use some improvement and speed
- No variations (like color options)
- Does not self-dock (to charge itself, for example)
- Thin instruction manual (pamphlet, more like), although it is easy enough to use so maybe that's intentional, and the point
- dances better, moving from side-to-side, than walking forward and back
- Can get "stuck" in a loop in some cases, although this may already be fixed with recent updates
Lynx is a humanoid robot that walks, gesticulates, dances and even does yoga with you, with Alexa adding a boost to its hardware. Whereas its basic motor skills are evident, the addition of Alexa brings home the bacon.
That is the idea, and to a degree it gets there.
It isn't perfect however, because although Alexa would have perfected a good product, it cannot help if people consider it a given yet complain about some of the basic movements of the product, particularly Lynx's sluggish reaction time and otherwise challenged gait when trying to walk. Especially that it's also quite expensive.
Lynx, however, is a newer line of robots that shows how the company behind it has improved on their previous iterations, particularly so given that Lynx's maker is UBTech, with an ongoing line of robotic products under its belt.
So Lynx isn't perfect, but as far as humanoid robots imbued with the gift of Alexa, it's the only game in town, and that's not bad at all.
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Lynx has a wide array of movement and freedom, and moves as well as function like a higher-end little robotic unit.
It comes with an app that provides more features and control, along with cameras and sensors as well, so you can let it do tasks like a mobile autonomous unit such as go into Surveillance Mode that will alert you if its motion sensor is triggered– such as if there is movement in your home when everyone is asleep– and take a 30 second video as well. And it’s something you can set manually or schedule it to switch on during predefined times of the day.
In Avatar Mode, you can let Lynx be a remote version of yourself. You can let Lynx take your place wherever you place it, no matter where you are at home or somewhere else in the world. You can use it to move or look around, and through its camera, sensors, and microphones you can see and hear everything in the vicinity of your Lynx, and experience what is in its point-of-view.
You can see, hear, as well as speak through Lynx, to whoever is in the room it’s in, even if you’re at the other side of the world accessing Lynx through its app. Alexa makes it one of the better robots that talk, after all. What’s more, you can instruct it to perform actions remotely like dance, wave and say “hi,” or give someone a hug.
Then there’s Alexa, in her full glory. It’s the same artificial intelligence (AI) in Amazon’s Echo family of smart speakers and is a true wonder. The difference is that she is embedded into the mind of Lynx, so can do the things other Alexa-powered devices can do like understand speech and respond by voice or execute commands but has the added feature set of being able to move around and do all other robotic things.
In fact, it’s a nifty feature to ask Lynx (as powered by Alexa) questions and have it answer, with movement.
It can even do yoga with you, literally. You can do the yoga while Lynx helps you out with the movements, and even acts out the movements itself so you a true yoga buddy and companion as well.
The inclusion of Alexa you can do plenty of things, a list that continues to grow while its core system is constantly updated. It also enables its owner to have access to thousands of skills built-in or through its marketplace as made by Amazon and thousands of other developers worldwide.
This includes letting you ask Lynx general questions– by voice!– and let it answer accordingly. It tells you the weather in your locality or elsewhere, tell you the news, set an appointment for you, give you instructions on various things, and many more. It can even let you switch appliances on, dim or brighten compatible lights, and work with many compatible products from partners.
It can take pictures, guide you through your exercise, or command it to set a timer by voice, all while letting it list movies that are playing nearby.
Lynx continues to grow and get smarter through software updates, so as new versions come in, it continuously gets smarter, more fun, and more helpful as you go along.
The Good: What We Like
It’s a complete desktop robot that has a copious amount of abilities and movements by itself (see above), and multiple modes and use cases that take it beyond its entertainment value and toward functional ones.
Being powered by Amazon’s Alexa, it increases an already impressive array of skills considerably more, both by the advanced technology inherent in Alexa itself, as well as the skills that can be acquired.
That way, you can access other Alexa-enabled devices, speak orders to it, and do other things you can do with Alexa from your Lynx.
Add to it the fact that Lynx and Alexa are continually updated, your unit will never remain stagnant but constantly get better over time.
The Bad: What We Don’t Like
Most of what’s not to like about the unit is minor, and might even get improved over time, even by regular updates instead of buying new versions.
This includes movement that isn’t exactly slow but can be improved in certain situations. It can also have some problems with irregular terrain (including thick cushy carpets).
It also isn’t programmable. In a way, this is its strength because owners don’t have to worry about fussing with a kit, and can just go and use (play?) with it as quickly as possible.
But for those who would have wanted that, but have the option– even a hidden option– to allow it to be programmed such as with its own software development kit– at this time there is no such option. (As far as Alexa is concerned, however, you can code it with skills.)
The manufacturer can also provide it with more documentation, not even so much for instructions but more for depth because people seem to want to read and know more about a unit they’ve grown to enjoy and love.
Lynx fits the bill for robots that talk, as well as the majority of requirements a robotics enthusiast (without being a technical person or programmer, or wishing to customize it like a kit or SDK) that performs a good amount of tasks with a wide range of abilities.
The inclusion of Alexa imbues this unit with high-end level consumer artificial intelligence to make this into more than just a semi-autonomous device that’s a lot of fun to use, and more into a fully functional robotic unit that you can interact with using regular voice commands.
Although you can find cheaper devices if you’re just after Alexa, its inclusion on the Lynx means you can avail of Alexa’s powers while enjoying the many inherent abilities built into Lynx.
So it’s like having two robotic units in one, except that it all blends very well that you won’t mistake it for separate systems, but just one that simply works.
It may seem expensive at first, until you see the breadth and depth of its abilities and features, including those that would easily have required a high-end unit costing 20 times as much. In that way and many others, it’s actually a bargain.