Sony's Xperia Agent is just a prototype, but it's the nearest thing I've seen to a home robot I might actually want to buy. The core of the Agent is a digital assistant like Siri and Alexa, that lets you complete tasks like checking your calendar and calling contacts. But, Sony being Sony, there's also a cute hardware element — a little robot companion with animated eyes that dances when you play music. This doesn't add any extra functionality, but it's just, well, fun. And why shouldn't robots be fun?
A home hub with robotic theatrics
The Agent was first unveiled by Sony last year, but the company has added some functionality to it since then. At IFA in Berlin, a couple of demo units were on display, showing how the Agent could act as a hub for your smart home. The bots were connected to a sound system, a TV, and a coffee machine, and under the instructions of Sony's assistants, were able to play music, pull up movie trailers, and order a steaming double espresso.
First, you get the Agent's attention by pressing down on its spherical head (which also contains a camera). This part is just for the demo, says Sony, as was the use of a microphone to compensate for the crowded show floor. The Agent then asks if you want a coffee, and options pop up on the touchscreen display for you to specify how strong you want it. Then just pop a cup under the machine and away you go. Useful and time-saving? No. Adorable and futuristic? Absolutely.
This is just a concept, of course, and the demos weren't performed under real world conditions, but it's easy to dream about the possibility of the Agent — and other similar devices. Amazon could easily add similar functions to the Echo for example, which can already call you a cab and order a pizza. Why not let it interface with smart coffee makers and TVs, turning its ambient voice interface into a hub for your smart home? Google could do the same with the (unreleased) Home speaker.
Are Sony's robotic theatrics a necessity for this sort of smart home hub? No, of course not, but some consumers might like them anyway. It's fun when weird, futuristic like home robots slowly become a reality, but it's even better when it looks and feels like the future too.