Lynx Is a Robot With Amazon Alexa SmartsBy - 03/30/2018
Personal home robots were all the rage at CES 2017. Most of the robots we reviewed were poised to hit the shelves this past year. Unfortunately, some of them didn’t make it. Despite their successful crowdfunding campaigns, Aido, Buddy, and BIG-i are still far from reaching people’s homes.
The good news is that some did make it. Lynx, a humanoid robot from UBTECH, is now available to the public for around $800. The question now is, are you ready to bring home a personal home robot?
Humanoid Robot vs. Other Robots
Perhaps the most interesting thing about Lynx is its design. It’s a humanoid robot that stands around 17″ tall and weighs a little over 10lbs. And like most humanoid robots, it can do things we humans do such as walk, dance, or perhaps even a bit of yoga. Like us, Lynx’s body has joints, twenty of them to be precise. On each joint is a digital servo or motor that allows the joint to move. All twenty motors are connected to a control chip, whose job is to synchronize and make them move at the right time, angle, and speed. Lynx is pre-programmed for certain movements like waving, nodding, shaking hands, giving high-fives, hugging, sitting, and walking, all of which can be controlled with your voice or using the iOS and Android companion app.
While it’s fun to watch Lynx stroll around like a human wannabe, it’s not much of an advantage when compared to other robots. In fact, it’s a disadvantage regarding mobility. Other robots move around using wheels, which is faster. This allows them to patrol your home and even follow people around if needed. As for Lynx, it can’t walk fast enough to keep up, and it runs the risk of tumbling down when walking on uneven surfaces. Also, making twenty servos move takes a toll on its battery life. Lynx can only last one hour on a single charge. Fortunately, you can still use it while plugged into an outlet, but what good is a robot that can’t move around?
Other Things Lynx Can Do
Lynx can do many things, but one feature that stands out is its ability to connect with Alexa. While third-party Alexa devices are now more common than they were when Lynx launched, putting the brains of Alexa into a humanoid robot adds fun and useful features.
Personal Assistant Features
Because Lynx has the power of Alexa, it can do almost anything Alexa is capable of doing as an assistant. It can answer your questions, set up reminders, or even add items to your Amazon shopping list. It can also read out recipes, control your smart home devices, and more. Using Lynx as a personal assistant is, in fact, no different from using an Echo device (except for Echo-exclusive features like Alexa Calling & Messaging).
Lynx is also designed to entertain. Using the power of Alexa, it can play music from Spotify, Amazon Music, or iHeartRadio. The catch? Lynx’s speakers aren’t great for streaming music. The audio quality is comparable to the Echo Dot, which is Amazon’s $50 smart speaker. The only difference between Lynx and Dot when it comes to streaming music is that Lynx has over 50 pre-programmed dance moves, the stanky leg not being one of them. While playing music, Lynx can dance to the beat. Is that feature worth the extra $750? I don’t think so.
Aside from dancing, there are other entertaining features exclusive to Lynx. For example, you can ask Alexa to take pictures of you. When taking pictures, Lynx will ask you to say “Cheese!” Before it “snaps,” tt will turn its head until it finds a smiling face. Your picture is saved in the cloud for seven days. You can also ask Lynx to teach you yoga. It will demonstrate one yoga pose after another, holding each pose for around 30 seconds.
Once again, thanks to the power of Alexa, Lynx can protect your home. Any smart home and security system compatible with Alexa is also compatible with Lynx. You can control your lights, locks, or even your security system.
At the same time, Lynx includes the ability to secure your home using built-in features. In Avatar Mode, you can check on your house, family, and pets using your smartphone to access a live video stream. Using the app, you can even make it walk or turn its head. Essentially, Lynx is a walking (albeit slow), pan-and-tilt camera. In Surveillance Mode, Lynx becomes a motion-detecting security camera. Using the motion sensor located in its torso, Lynx can alert you if it detects movement. It can also record 30-second videos and save them to the cloud for seven days. Can it follow intruders? Only if your intruder is a snail. Besides, Lynx’s 1-hour battery life hinders it from walking freely around your house. Surveillance Mode is best used with Lynx is plugged in.
Lynx is a product that can improve over time. Originally, UBTECH planned to invite developers to create Voice Apps, like Alexa Skills. However, they seem to have moved in a different direction. Instead of Voice Apps, UBTECH now promises to improve Lynx’s features via firmware upgrades. Possible coming-soon features include facial recognition and voice recognition.
Should You Buy Lynx?
Lynx is now selling for $799.99 on Amazon, obviously a lot more expensive than any Alexa-enabled device. But then again, it’s a robot, and it can do a lot more. So going back to my original question: Should you buy Lynx?
On one hand, Lynx is one of the few personal home robots you can buy now. It has fun features like dancing, and it can protect your home just like any Echo device can. With the addition of its cameras and motion sensor, it can even act as a security camera. Are all of these features worth $800? Maybe. Developing a humanoid that can walk, dance, and do yoga is expensive. Is Lynx for the average consumer? I don’t think so. Robots may be the future of the smart home, but right now, they’re still too expensive and lacking in features. But if you’re an early-adopter who’s into robots and Alexa, Lynx could be the robotic friend for you.
Other UBTech Humanoid Bots
Lynx is not the only humanoid robots in UBTech’s lineup. There’s the Alpha 1S and Alpha 1 Pro, smartphone remote-controlled versions of Lynx that you can program to make complex moves. They are designed for kids and even adults who want to have fun and practice their robotics and programming skills.
There’s also the Alpha 2 robot. Alpha 2 is Lynx’s twin sibling that was funded through Indiegogo. While Alpha 2 did ship to backers in March 2017, UBTECH never released it to the public. Instead, they seem to have bricked the product. They stopped updating it and support for the product is nowhere to be seen. As expected, backers are furious. They paid close to a thousand bucks for a robot that has lost its purpose. What happened to Alpha 2 is less likely to happen to Lynx, but still, it’s a testament to UBTECH’s integrity as a consumer company.
There’s also the Jimu lineup of customizable humanoid robots. These robots are programmable, but they come with a unique twist. Each Jimu kit comes in hundreds of LEGO-like pieces. Your job is first to assemble the kit and then program the robot to perform the actions you want it to execute. Each robot comes with pre-programmed movements, and it’s up to you to create something unique.
A few of the Jimu robots were on display at CES 2017 including LionBot, KarBot, and TankBot. KarBot is the first Jimu robot to run on wheels while TankBot is the first to run on tank treads. All three feature the ability to move along tracks or lines with the help of laser trackers. The TankBot has the added ability to follow commands such as picking up objects or pushing them around.
Another new robot from UBTech is Cruzr, which is marketed toward businesses rather than homes. He is a humanoid robot butler that can interact with customers. He can move his arms around, shake hands, and even hug. He can also talk. Plus, he has video conferencing features. Cruzr’s promised battery life is 8 hours, and he can go back to his charging station on his own when needed.
Alpha 1S currently sells for $448 on Amazon while Jimu kits run around $150 to $500 depending on the kit you choose.