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.

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