This Plastic Bot Is Strangely Endearing and Utterly Controlling, In The Best Sense

As children, all we want is our teddy bear, as adults, all we want to is to not have to leave the couch after a hard days work. Mu Design, a design and technology studio based in Luxembourg, have managed to combine both to create the Bearbot – a lovable plastic bear who can control the environment around you with just a flick of a finger.

Like a real pet, Bearbot learns to interpret your gesticulations and detects movement via a 3D gesture controller in order to control the technology around you – from changing the TV channel to dimming the lights and so much more. “He is made out of 100% recyclable plastic and his virtual face livens up through his 1.44 inch TFT screen”, Bearbot’s designers explained, “he is able to capture infrared, zigbee, bluetooth and radio signals. Users can charge him with an induction charger.

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Though Bearbot is very clearly a piece of technology it’s hard to not form an attachment to him as he smiles as you enter and, every now and again, responds in such a spontaneous manner that it’s hard to remember he isn’t real. Though he, and his designers, have yet to roll out the product, they are in the process of securing funding to do so. Who knows, by 2020 we could all be snuggling up to the most useful companion we’ve ever had.

We caught up with Melissa Cromer at Mu Design to talk.

The Plus: Firstly, why a bear?
Mélissa Cromer:
A bear can remind us of our childhood as we all had teddy bears. The idea was to create a round and reassuring small creature. We like to highlight the cute and pleasant side of our emotive products. A bear also hibernates; this is what Bearbot does when he is inactive.
 
TP: What inspired the bearbot?
MC:
While developing our owl Ulo, we discovered a revolutionary technology: a 3D gesture recognition sensor. We wanted to integrate this innovation within another product that would be as cute as Ulo.

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TP: Is it a boy or a girl? 
MC:
Bearbot is a boy, we developed all our communication around this fact. We intend to add further expressions and different faces to Bearbot so that the user can customize it according to their taste.
 
TP: Why did you decide to add endearing personality and facial features as opposed to just making it functional?
MC:
Our intention is to create a unique bond between users and products.

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TP: What makes the Bearbot different from other similar devices?
MC:
Bearbot can be seen as a companion, a pet. The relationship to a product like ours is nicer. Bearbot brings aesthetics and technology together. 
 
TP: What, or who, is the Bearbot cub?
MC:
Bearbot’s cub is called mini Bearbot. It is a relay that expands the infrared range. Mini Bearbot is useful when the distance between Bearbot and the device exceeds 5 linear meters or when Bearbot is hidden behind an obstacle. Mini Bearbot makes sure the signal is well received by Bearbot.

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TP: What was the biggest challenge when designing the bot?
MC:
The biggest challenge was to make a simple and easily recognizable design. Vivien wished a minimalist design that would convey an enjoyable image.
 
TP: Talk us through the creative process.
MC:
The creative process goes through an association of ideas. Several prototypes are produced with a 3D printer. Hardware should be well integrated to the product. 2D facial animations should become part of the bear and appear as effective as possible.

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TP: What is your favourite feature of the Bearbot?
MC:
We like his spontaneous reactions they make him more lively. Bearbot can surprise you from time to time.
 
TP: Sum up the bearbot in 3 words.
MC:
Cute, lively and technological.
  
TP: What’s next for the Bearbot? what would you ideally like to happen?
MC:
We would like to enlarge the family but this remains confidential for the moment.

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