Companion robots have been a part of science fiction for decades - think C-3PO from the original Star Wars movies or the Robot from Lost in Space. Companies have been working hard over the past few decades to invent technology that turns fiction into reality and it looks like we’re finally starting to get there with robots like Temi.
Pricing and availability
Temi is currently available in the UAE through Jacky’s Retail and is priced at AED 17,209. There are two colors in which the robot is available - black and white.
One of the biggest challenges for this first generation of robots is to make sure they don’t look intimidating, and the designers at Temi have done a great job at that. Kids should have no problem warming up to the welcoming design while the older generation will be intrigued by it.
At 100 cms high, Temi feels very approachable. It has a vertically tilting screen that automatically adjusts to face anyone in front of it, which helps with the friendliness factor. The screen is nicely sized at 10.1 inches making it easy to read whatever information is present on it.
Temi isn’t designed in a humanoid form factor like the Pepper robot with arms and a face, but is cute and inviting enough to make you feel comfortable. It’s available in black and white and while we received the black color for review, the white one looks even more friendly.
There is a button on top of the screen which enables the follow mode that makes Temi follow you around. Next to it are volume buttons and behind the screen is a power button and a tray that can wireless charge phones or carry stuff up to 3kgs around.
There are three cameras above the screen- a 13MP camera for your video calls that can do 1080p at 30fps, another 13MP wide-angle camera with 1080p at 30fps for remote navigation and survelance as well as a TOF camera for depth sensing upto 5 meters.
Temi comes with a charging dock that is set up when you’re getting started with the robot. It remembers the location of its base and parks itself on it to charge. Temi has a reported battery life of around 8 hours but with it automatically charging itself, running out of battery shouldn’t be a concern.
Features and usability
The quickest way to describe the functionality of Temi would be “Alexa on wheels”, with the mapping capabilities of robot vacuum cleaners like Roomba. Temi can learn how your house or apartment is laid out and you can name rooms to allow it to zip across from one to the other.
This sounds great in theory as you can put a plate of freshly cooked brownies on Temi and ask it to deliver it to the TV room. However, the challenge we faced was that Temi could not climb over floor transition strips present between rooms, which is common in this part of the world. Unlike vacuum robots that can generally climb these transitions, Temi has a much higher center of gravity which could potentially lead to it tipping over. So if your rooms have a slight lip at the entrance, Temi most likely won’t be able to traverse over it.
If you don’t have any of those in your house then Temi should be able to freely move around. Also stating the obvious here, that if you have a multi story house then you’ll need to decide which floor to put Temi on as it can’t climb stairs.
A little tip for people with shiny marble floors - make sure you tone down the sensitivity on Temi’s navigation settings to medium, otherwise reflections can be mistakenly identified as obstacles on the floor and prevent Temi from moving freely.
The Lidar sensor sits at the base of Temi which is about five inches above the ground level. What that means is that Temi is able to detect any items that are over a few inches above the ground but not lower objects. Things like small cushions or wires lying on the floor went undetected and Temi would either push them aside or attempt to climb over.
This could lead to potentially disastrous situations if something’s plugged in. We’ve seen robot vacuum cleaners with Lidar sensors that are able to avoid such objects, primarily because their sensors are much closer to the ground. Speaking of robot vacuum cleaners, it feels like a missed opportunity that Temi can’t sweep the floors in your home, but maybe that’s wishful thinking.
Temi can also follow you quite accurately as long as you're not running away from it. It has a decent speed of 1m/sec which could be a bit scary as it rushes towards you but it stops a good foot away every single time. Tracking is done using the Lidar sensor and though we haven’t tested it, the manufacturer claims that you could potentially use Temi for commercial applications such as hospitals to guide people around. We could definitely see a future in which you could take Temi to the mall and have it carry your shopping around.
Coming back to the Alexa bit, the mics on Temi are as sensitive as Echo Show devices and it can easily hear you from across the room or even a different room. The speakers are also loud and can play music from any service such as iHeart Radio or Spotify. You can also have it control your smart home devices such as light bulbs as long as you’ve connected them to Alexa.
Other than Alexa, Temi has an app store as well that has simple apps such as games like Tic Tac Toe or charades. Being Android based, Temi should hopefully be able to expand on these in the future. You can also use it to make video calls which should work in parts of the world where VoIP isn’t blocked by default.
As a home robot, Temi isn’t quite there yet, but the technology behind it gives us a glimpse into the future of household robotics. The mapping and following capabilities of Temi are impressive, and when these could be combined with more utility and AI in the future, Temi could become immensely helpful. But at the moment, it seems more suited for businesses than being a part of your home.