Facebook has recently filed a patent for a “self-balancing robot that transitions from a three-wheeled mode to a two-wheeled self-balancing mode”. Does this make any sense to you? To date, we typically haven’t seen Facebook bringing us much by way of hardware, so what they intend to do with this are a bit vague. They also recently suggested that they might be getting into the smart speaker business. Which, makes a lot of sense to me. Not necessarily because Facebook getting into smart speakers is a natural progression. But because everyone is getting into the smart speaker game. So why not Facebook? Not only that but Facebook is everywhere. So why not physically inside your home?
But this weird self-balancing robot will achieve what? The illustrations included with the patent depict several configurations. But the core functionality is a ball-like feature at the end of a multi-jointed arm. The patent refers to this as the “head unit”. The unit is designed to support a display, a camera, microphones and a speaker. It could have some VR applications, but the onboard tech seems geared towards a telepresence play straight out of the Zuckerberg empire. The other main feature is that it can stand on two wheels so that it can be “tall with a relatively small footprint”.
The patent also notes that “in some embodiments, the body can be configured with a storage region or cargo support to carry items when the robot is in a three-wheeled mode”. This whole idea brings to mind personal delivery applications. But is that what Zuckerberg is trying to do? Honestly, no one really knows. But let’s think about it for a minute. Technology changes at such a rapid pace, it is really hard to keep up. Tim Cook says that augmented reality is the future, and I’m mostly supportive of that. But what I can understand is how “robots” will fit into our day to day lives.
I can understand robots from an industrial perspective. Having greater robotic technology will allow us to automate some systems or procedures within certain industries. But how will a robot “butler” be useful to the average person? I’m saying “butler” because that’s what I feel like it will be able to do. Think Rosie from the Jetsons. But could they serve other purposes? Facebook has been investing a lot of time and resources into robotic technologies including artificial intelligence and virtual reality. So perhaps this is just the next step in their process?
Facebook has also been at the forefront when it comes to commercial drones. Maybe these robots will act in conjunction with those? Honestly, no one really knows what the outcome of these robots will be. That said, I think that these patents are going to become more and more mainstream if you will. This also makes me think of Elon Musk and his robot uprising. Is Mark Zuckerberg giving us this technology because he wants to take over the world? I say that in a humorous tone, but I’m not sure that I should be.