Meet Ballie, Samsung’s cute, rolling ‘companion’ robot



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Samsung co-CEO H.S. Kim shows off Ballie, the company’s rolling robot. 


James Martin/CNET

This story is part of CES 2020, our complete coverage of the showroom floor and the hottest new tech gadgets around.

Samsung’s got a new robot — and it looks a lot like a tennis ball.

Co-CEO H.S. Kim showed off Ballie, a small, bright yellow, rolling robot during a keynote Monday at CES 2020 in Las Vegas. Ballie followed Kim around the stage and responded to his commands. That included moving closer and farther away from Kim and jumping into his hands. 

Kim said he believes robots can be “life companions.” Ballie “understands you, supports you and reacts to your needs to be actively helpful around the house,” Samsung said in a press release issued at the start of the keynote.

Like nearly all major technology companies, Samsung is making a big push in artificial intelligence. The technology, which gives devices some ability to act on their own, is seen as the next big wave of computing — the way we’ll interact with our gadgets in the future. Instead of swiping on our phone screens, we’ll talk to our devices or to ever-listening microphones around our homes and offices. The ultimate promise for the AI is to predict what you want before you even ask, though most smart assistants aren’t that smart yet. 

At CES last year, Samsung showed off four different types of robots for consumers. That included its Bot Air for air purification, Bot Care for health monitoring, Bot Retail for restaurants and shops, and GEMS (Gait Enhancing and Motivating System) to help people with mobility issues. At the time, Samsung said the robots were just research. It didn’t have a timeline for when it would launch them. 

Later in 2019, it unveiled its Bot Chef that helped famous chefs prepare food for IFA conference attendees.

Ballie

Ballie’s on-device AI capabilities will turn it into things like a fitness assistant or a remote control, Sebastian Seung, Samsung executive vice president and chief research scientist, said during the keynote Monday. 

Ballie can be a “new friend to your kids and pets and a camera that records and stores special moments — kind of like a family photo album,” he said. “For a little robot, he is pretty busy.”

Ballie

Ballie represents Samsung’s vision for companion robots. 


James Martin/CNET

Seung and Kim added that tech is becoming more personal. Kim envisions the next era of tech will be the “Age of Experience” where consumers seek out devices that help them do more, rather than just buying new gadgets for the sake of the gadget. 

“One size fits all is no longer the answer,” Seung said. “We are all seeking solutions that treat us as individuals.”

He added that Ballie and Samsung’s other efforts in AI also will incorporate “stringent data protection and privacy standards.”

“Of course we want Ballie to be fun, smart and helpful,” Seung said. “But we also want Ballie to keep our secrets. We want an AI we can trust.”


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Samsung reveals rolling personalized robot



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Better workouts

GEMS Samsung AR Exercise

Samsung envisions using its GEMS robot for fitness.


James Martin/CNET

Along with Ballie, Samsung showed off new capabilities for its GEMS robots, first unveiled at CES last year. The robot looks like an exoskeleton and is meant to help with mobility issues, such as those caused by injuries from strokes. Last year, Samsung said it has developed three models: the GEMS-H for hips, GEMS-A for ankles and GEMS-K for knees.

At CES 2020, Samsung showed people using GEMS to improve health and fitness. The company demonstrated consumers using AR glasses to work out with a virtual personal trainer, climb a mountain or walk underwater, all from their own living rooms. GEMS then can aggregate and analyze results to give users personalized workout recommendations. 

GEMS has “evolved with more features,” said Federico Casalegno, chief design innovation officer of Samsung’s Design Innovation Center. “It’s a sport and entertainment system. … It recognizes personal fitness needs and optimizes the experience for you.”



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