Have You Ever Wanted A Pet Robot? Jr. Could Be Just The Right Gadget For You

Only a few decades ago, robotic pets seemed pretty absurd - something isolated to the realm of science fiction. Such a notion almost seems quaint now, doesn't it? These days, we're seeing a flood of robotic pets hit the market. Jr. is the latest - and possibly one of the most promising I've yet seen.

Developed by Arizona-based startup Roambotics, Jr. is currently in its first phase of beta testing, billed as a general-purpose consumer robot equipped with WiFi capabilities, autonomous navigation, Bluetooth, and an array of cameras and microphones. So far, that doesn't seem too out of the ordinary...so what makes Jr. so exciting?

Simple: it's able to learn. Jr. is equipped with a behavioral user interface which allows the robot to actively learn from the habits and actions of its flesh-and-blood owner. If, for example, it notices you're busy with work (or chatting to someone on the phone), it'll have enough sense to stay out of your way. Presumably, it'll also know to comfort you when you're upset (as best a robot can, anyway).  

Thanks to a companion app (iOS only at the moment, sadly), Jr. can also pair up with your Smartphone, allowing you to remotely view your house no matter where you are.

"It really is a first step toward a practical personal robot that you'd actually be able to have in your house and not just be a toy or a novelty," explained Roambotics CEO Scott Menor. "We really wanted something where it feels like a presence. So it's not just a product or device you have. It's more...really like you have a dog." 

That could either be really cool or incredibly creepy - jury's still out on which, I'm afraid.

Pre-orders for Jr. will start around April, with the first shipments expected in the second half of 2015. It'll cost $499, and a soon-to-be-released API for the robot will enable developers to think up new and unique software for the bot. According to Menor, this could give Jr. a wide range of different applications beyond a simple companion - in the future; it could potentially serve as a fitness tracker or health care device. 

So, yeah. Jr. looks pretty awesome. If you want to follow the product's development cycle (or simply want more information about it), you can visit the Roambotics website.They've got a form you can use to sign up for a mailing list.