Bossa Nova's mObi, first 'ballbot,' rolls onstage

Appearing at the 2012 RoboBusiness Summit in Pittsburgh in late October, mObi takes Bossa Nova Robotics from toys to personal robotics.

Called by This Week in Creepy Robotics the “unholy mating of Segway and robot,” the new mObi [sic] from Bossa Nova Robotics hopes to be a research platform for personal robotics. The “ballbot” concept, where the unit balances on ball (think unholy mating of a Dyson ball vacuum and information kiosk holding a tablet), was developed by the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University and licensed exclusively to Bossa Nova.

Of course, balancing on a ball takes power, and a software or power glitch would cause mObi to fall and risk damage. The answer, developed by Ben Brown, is a “rapid deploy safety system,” a set of six legs that extend immediately around the ball to provide a kickstand. This will help avoid the dreaded “faceplant” tendency of ballbots, according to the IEEE Spectrum.

Led around the room by Martin Hitch, CEO of Bossa Nova Robotics in this video from the RoboBusiness Summit, mObi looks agile enough to navigate around rooms and humans. Technology similar to that used by Microsoft's Kinect motion sensor helps guide mObi around. Stairs and doors remain insurmountable barriers at this time. The tablet-holster provides a way for the optional tablet to use Skype or some other videoconferencing tool to become the face of mObi.

According to Robotics Business Review, Bossa Nova has sold their revenue-producing line of children's robots, the Penbo “Interactive Waddling Penguin” with “Bebe.” It appears Bossa Nova and CEO Hitch are all in with mObi. Whether mObi can balance a company on its wheel during the expected years of research and development remains to be seen.

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