Robot pet-sitters? The technology isn’t there just yet, according to one dog

Buddy the robot, from Blue Frog Robotics, meets Bella the bulldog.
Buddy the robot, from Blue Frog Robotics, meets Bella the bulldog.

The founders of Paris-based Blue Frog Robotics were in town this week, looking for local office space and promoting their robot, Buddy, designed to be a companion and helper around the house. I got a demo of a Buddy prototype, which was able to respond to questions like “How old are you?” and do a little dance on command.

We also set Buddy free to roam the Jamestown Properties office at Boston’s Innovation & Design Building, where our meeting took place — and did a little impromptu research on canine-robot interaction with Bella, a bulldog who belongs to a Jamestown employee.

Eventually, Buddy will be able to do things like switch off the lights when you go to bed, patrol your apartment when you’re on vacation, or keep an eye on an elderly person living alone.

But based on one data point, Buddy is not yet a great pet-sitter. Bella the bulldog was at first alarmed when Buddy approached, then curious, then apparently disappointed that the armless droid couldn’t engage in a game of fetch with her favorite tennis ball. After much prodding from the humans around, she would get closer to Buddy, but there wasn’t much chemistry.

Chief operating officer Franck De Visme said that Blue Frog is planning to set up shop locally in either the Boston or Cambridge locations of the CIC, and that the company is in the midst of raising its first major round of funding. They hope to begin delivering robots to customers by the middle of 2016. Blue Frog has collected just over $430,000 using the crowdfunding website Indiegogo. Blue Frog expects to employ between 5 and 10 people within a year at its Boston-area marketing and engineering outpost.






Bella has given up on her robot playmate.

Scott Kirsner writes the Innovation Economy column every Sunday in the Boston Globe, in which he tracks entrepreneurship, investment, and big company activities around New England.
Follow Scott on Twitter - Facebook - Google+