The Apple rumor-mill is buzzing again, this time over plans for a new device that will really have legs. Actually, mostly arms: Apple’s iBot is still in early prototype stages, and focus has centered on the robot’s extraordinary upper body dexterity, which will enable it to be used not only in the Apple manufacturing process, but the device will also be made available to consumers themselves as an extension of Apple’s move into the home entertainment market.
The computer giant registered iBot some five years ago — in 2008 — but the name was thought to have been filed away and forgotten long ago as a concept that even Apple couldn’t convince us we needed. But yesterday’s leak serves as the first evidence that Apple engineers have indeed been at work on their very own robot. Early designs show the iBot, like ASIMO and Telstar V before her, to take a roughly humanoid form, albeit in Apple’s classic white shell.
Standing at 4′ 8″, the sleek, dare we say it — cute — yet still fundamentally professional looking iBot is tall enough to perform most human tasks comfortably, but not so tall as to be intimidating to users. Primarily controlled via a standard Apple remote, the iBot features a large ‘home’ button at the nape of its neck for emergency power downs, and has the ever-present scroll wheel placed over the upper left hand side of its chest, accessible to both iBot and owner.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a source within Apple told journalists: “We’re going to start small, this is new territory for Apple… We collaborated with the Rilakkuma Lab at Kyoto’s Technological Institute to develop the degrees of freedom in the finger and arm joints necessary to do the painstaking work of assembling the intricate electrical elements of our iPhones [and] iPads, but also worked with a strong focus on the consumer angle. It’s the first real effort at creating a full-scale robot with such levels of functionality for the broad consumer market.”