Self-portraiture takes flight with the SelfieBot

In the next few years, drones are expected to become commonplace, whether they’re for surveillance or just delivering books, but robot maker Orbotix has found a different use.

As smartphones begin to use better front-facing camera modules, many of us are trying our very best to get the best possible self-portraits possible from our handheld phones. Some companies are choosing to increase the megapixels, and others are electing to use wider front-facing cameras.

And then there’s the SelfieBot.

The next personal robot from the people that brought us the Sphero, and the SelfieBot takes advantage of drone-like technology that allows a small device to fly in front of you and constantly maintain target lock as you walk, or even when you’re sitting down, smiling, or just lying in bed.

“The SelfieBot from Orbotix is always watching for life’s precious moments,” said a spokesperson for Orbotix. “Sometimes it’s just not long enough. SelfieBot goes the distance to give you that extra few feet of space that you’ve always needed for a great selfie.”

We’re told the concept of the SelfieBot came from one of the founders who was fiddling with the idea of a flying Sphero when it hit him: why not add a camera and keep it watching you the entire time.

A prototype was first formed a year ago at the Orbotix offices, and while there were a few bugs, most have been ironed out, with the SelfieBot able to be triggered through a Bluetooth-controlled software connection with apps available for both iOS and Android.

“Most of the work on the SelfieBot has been on the face tracking algorithm,” said a researcher at Orbotix. “You wouldn’t believe how difficult it is to get a robot to keep looking at you.”

We’re reminded of science fiction movies and games where the camera people for the news have been replaced with remote control cameras, because that’s basically what the SelfieBot looks and feels like: a taste of the future for people who love self-portraiture.

Pricing and availability has yet to be announced, but as soon as we know, we’ll let you know.

UPDATE (April 2): April Fools! While we didn’t make the joke, we were definitely in on it, hence the quotes. Orbotix did a great job with this prank, and while the company specialises in robotics, we’re still a long way off from this technology. With current drone and battery technology, we’d be surprised if a real SelfieBot would be able to fly for more than an hour or two, so a robot that constantly watches you as you go about your life is probably a few years off. Plus, don’t you feel sorry for the SelfieBot? We did.