The lowest priced system on this list, the Echo, is also the one you're most likely to see when you go to your tech-savvy friend's next dinner party. Reviews have been solid in publications of record for the tech industry (ahem ...), and with a sub-$200 price point and Amazon's vast sales reach, expect this little voice-activated speaker system to lead the charge among home personal assistants.
The Echo is a cloud-based device built around the premise that being able to make some impressive noise and respond to voice commands while connected to the internet leads to all kinds of functionality. It's being advertised as a smart music player that can remind you about stuff and look up other stuff on Wikipedia, but if utilized to its fullest it can become the central hub of your smart home, controlling lights and connected WeMo, Hue, and Wink devices. It's a DJ, a book reader, and a robust calendar, and its functionality is going to grow as Amazon continues development. One recent addition is live traffic reporting, which is particularly useful when you're scurrying around trying to get out of the house.
The most humanoid of the bots in this roundup, Pepper is designed for companionship. During interactions, Pepper analyzes facial expressions, body language, and verbal cues, honing its responses and offering a dynamic and surprisingly natural conversation partner. Originally created for use in SoftBank Mobile's retail stores in Japan, Aldebaran recently released Pepper for home use, though supply has been limited and units are completely sold out.
Meet Jibo, the world's first family robot. A combination personal assistant, photographer, messenger, storyteller, and telepresence bot, Jibo was created with active families in mind. Natural language processing and 360 degree microphones allow it to respond to conversational cues, and two high-res cameras track faces and enable the bot to recognize different users. It's best for scheduling, entertaining the kids, and providing companionship. The home edition retails for $599 but is currently sold out.
The Personal Robot by Robot Base will automate your home and life by connecting to your devices, fitness trackers, locks, switches, outlets, and thermostats. Not only will it keep your home secure, developers say it will also help significantly lower energy bills. The Personal Robot can also handle your scheduling, make calls and entertain your kids. Not bad for a pre-order price of $995.
It's like the best traffic cone ever. The FURo-i Home Robot is a family planner and telecommunications device. Its sister bot, the FURo-i Secure, lets you patrol your home while you're away. FURo-i touts family connectivity and telepresence as its primary capabilities, but like most of the personal assistant devices here it does a bit of everything, from entertaining the tots to teaching grandpa how to cook. Available for pre-order now at $712.20.
It may seem strange coming from a cube, but this device's selling point is that it's the first AI system with a personality (don't tell Pepper). The Cubic ecosystem includes the home cube, a power badge that connects to ear buds, and a mobile app, so your new friend will always be with you. Cubic is still under development, so the extent of its capabilities remains to be seen, but you've got to give its makers points for comparing the power badge to the communicator in Star Trek.
Budgee is an indoor/outdoor personal load-carrying device that follows you around for up to 10 hours. The robot folds up for easy transport. If you can weather the puzzled stares, it would be perfect for a trip to the grocery store. That may not sound like a big deal if you're able-bodied, but Budgee is being marketed to members of the disabled community. For people with mobility issues, an automated errand boy would be a real benefit. The bot retails for $1399 and the first orders have been pushed back to August 30.
Designed for the connected home, this sleek orb from Ukrainian start-up Branto uses Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, ZigBee, and infrared in a bid to pair with every connected device you could possibly own. Branto also streams music and alerts you remotely if there's suspicious movement in the house. At $399 it packs a lot of functionality. The Branto team debuted at CES this year, and the first shipments are expected in December, pending the success of the company's ongoing Indiegogo campaign.