The Retriever from developer Labrador Systems is like a sleek version of the autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) that are now commonplace in logistics centers and manufacturing.
After several years of seeing ridiculous robotic humanoids and mobile robot assistants (that amount to very expensive Alexas on wheels) released, this practical consumer unit is a welcome evolution of existing successful commercial platforms.
In short, here's a robot that some users might actually find useful.
"There's a significant portion of our society that's massively underserved," says Labrador Systems CEO Mike Dooley. "When pain or other health issues start interfering with your ability to move yourself or other things, even short distances can have a major impact on your independence, quality of life, and overall health. The Retriever is meant to help physically bridge some of that gap and empower individuals to be more active and do more on their own."
The system works via touch screen, voice, or through a mobile app. Like a personal assistant, the robot can respond to certain programmed reminders, like delivering prescribed objects at the right time. The system is self-driving and guides itself through homes using a proprietary navigation system that fuses algorithms from Augmented Reality with robotics to create 3D maps of the home.
Robotics technology in general has plummeted in cost, in large part thanks to the progress in machine vision and AI, which enable robots to operate at high levels using consumer-grade electronics and sensors.
Labrador Systems is also working with care providers, such as senior living communities, occupational therapists, and home health providers, to explore ways the Retriever can support their mission. The company, which is backed by SOSV/HAX, Amazon Alexa Fund, iRobot, and the National Science Foundation, has had its robots operating autonomously in pilot users' homes since February 2021.
"This is the first time we've seen this class of robot developed for the home; until now, this level of functionality has been confined to warehouses and other commercial environments," says Paul Willard, Partner at venture capital firm Grep VC. "We're impressed with how the team is enabling robotics and navigation systems to run on low-cost consumer-grade electronics to provide more independence for millions of individuals."
Labrador Systems recently announced that it has raised an additional $3.1M in Seed Funding. Amazon's Alexa Fund and iRobot Ventures co-led the round, with SOSV returning and new investors, including Grep VC, joining.