Monthly Archives: June 2016


Zenbo: A Mobile Amazon Echo?

Zenbo – A Mobile Amazon Echo?

Asus surprised many people a couple of weeks ago with the release of an interesting new product… Zenbo.

Zenbo is a household robot that resembles the love child of BB-8 from Star Wars and an old iMac G4. I’d loosely describe it as a mobile version of Amazon Echo with a tablet/screen/camera face.

Zenbo reminds me of when I finally understood the value of the Amazon Echo itself. It was much more than a Bluetooth speaker.

Zenbo’s ability to move around the house gives it mobility that the Amazon Echo doesn’t have. That puts it in a whole new class of intelligent digital personal assistants. If you need a recipe, Amazon Echo isn’t very good at that. Zenbo can move into the kitchen and put the recipe right on it’s screen for you.

I was amazed by the demo video:

My initial reaction was, “This looks great, but it’s going to cost about $3000.” Nope. It’s estimated to launch at $599. While Amazon’s Alexa line of products are obviously much cheaper, the price seems very, very reasonable for what you get.

Of course the Zenbo isn’t perfect. A lot about it isn’t known.

I don’t see how it will climb stairs. Since our family splits its time on two levels separated by two stairs, it would be frustrating to be picking it up a couple steps every time we moved.

I didn’t see anything about battery life (admittedly I didn’t look very hard), but I presume that it will have to charge itself quite a bit. The Echo’s always-on functionality seems to require so much power that it is hard to recharge it… (except for this 3rd party battery/accessory. Throw mobile and powering a tablet/screen all the time and one can imagine that it will drain a battery pretty quick.

At the end of the day, Asus Zenbo and Amazon Echo are very different things, but there’s enough overlap to see families choosing one and deciding that they don’t need the other. It looks like Zenbo will be more versatile, but I wonder if it will work as the Echo at the things that the Echo is good at. I don’t think it will have the microphone array, nearly as good speaker, and the intelligence of Alexa. Amazon also has a big head-start on partnerships as far as being the hub of a smart home.

It will be something to keep on the radar. And Asus, if you want to send me a Zenbo, I’d love to give it a more detailed review.

Make your Amazon Echo Portable with this Battery

Summer feels like it’s here and the entire family is spending more time outside by grill. Kids are playing on their swing set. My wife makes some great cocktails. All that’s missing is a little music.

Now that I have an Amazon Echo downstairs and an Echo Dot upstairs, I listen to almost all my music through Amazon.

I don’t have a good music solution for the outside. Sure I could get an Amazon Tap, but I’m not excited by the Tap. So I solved the problem the old (well new) school way… I grabbed a Bluetooth speaker and my Nexus 5 phone and soon I was playing music.

(Well, my wife was playing her Broadway channel from Google Music. Ugh. I guess you can’t have everything.)

But what if my Echo was portable? It sounds like a nice pipe dream, but it isn’t a dream at all. It’s reality… almost.

A company by the name of Mission Power makes an battery that will make your Echo portable. At least that’s the promise. The units are currently on back order. I’ve read that some units have shipped, but I couldn’t find any reliable reviews.

The idea is that you attach the battery base and plug the Echo in like you would do anyway. When you want to take it somewhere, you simply do just that… unplug the cord from the base and pick it up and go. It promises up to 6 hours of music play, which is typically more than enough for my needs.

When I first read about this, I dismissed it. I thought I’d have to wind the cord and attach the battery every time I wanted to move it. I was wrong. This now looks like exactly what I want to bring out to the yard.