Slashgear: Enabot EBO Air Review: Clever Robot Cat Companion
Oct 24,2023 | Justin Owen/ Slashgear
By Justin Owen/Slashgear
Fun and entertaining
Cute and clever styling
AI functions are vague
Inability to overcome small obstacles
Won't entertain all pet
With recent technological innovations in software, computers, cameras, and electronics, thousands of clever engineers and designers are coming up with novel ways of combining features into novel devices. With many of these developments, home security has become affordable and easy to obtain for most people and is no longer limited to wealthy households alone. With the proliferation of wireless technology, even renters can take advantage of security products with no permanent installation, making everyone's homes safer.
Making homes safer is a good thing and can help prevent crime and punish perpetrators of it when it happens. However, few companies have sought to merge security with fun pastimes. These two things are rarely, if ever, directly related ...until now. The company Enabot offers a line of pint-sized robots that use advanced imagery, wireless technology, and imaging to roam living spaces while providing artificial companionship to the fur-covered residents while relaying live feeds of the action back to the homeowners. The top-line model offered is the EBO Air. It is promoted as a perfect (or "purrfect") companion to your pets while serving a security role for the inside of your home. So, the question to ask is, if it serves two roles, how well does it fulfill either?
What is EBO Air?
The EBO Air device is a cute spherical battery-powered device with a cute and cleverly designed appearance to give it fun and anthropomorphic qualities. It features a clack band similar to a face shield on a motorcycle helmet with a central camera lens and illuminated icons on either side. On board is a 1080p camera with night vision capability, 2.4 and 5G capable Wi-Fi radio, microphone, speaker, laser pointer, and electric motors driving a set of tracks for mobility.
It also includes sensors that prevent it from bumping into objects and records onto internal 16GB memory or up to 256GB SD Card. Included in the box is a charging base that uses a typical USB charger for power and its non-removable battery capacity is 2500mAH. In addition to its cute and jovial appearance, it comes with several thin feather-like accessories meant for a hole located on the top of the EBO. Unboxing the device is relatively simple and straightforward such that almost anyone can have it set up and ready in a matter of minutes.
How does it work?
Enabot provides a companion app on the Google Play Store and Apple App Store for free and this is what will control all functions and settings of the device. Connecting the device to Wi-Fi and the app is another fairly simple operation requiring sign-in to your network and displaying an app-generated QR to the camera of EBO. Once it is recognized, setup will be complete.
Control of EBO is similar to mobile video games. It has a forward and reverse slider on the left with a left and right slider on the right. Other functions can be controlled through a set of on-screen buttons to perform functions like turning the speaker on and off or activating the microphone to begin recording. From there, navigation is simple, using the display from the camera to navigate. It has a video game quality to it, only it happens in your home in real time. The camera switched automatically to night vision when in low light and the EBO has a return home function when it's time for it to charge, although it cannot track its way through the house like an advanced robotic vacuum, but requires a line of sight to the base.
The App also has menus for changing some settings. The travel speed can be adjusted and the control orientation can switch location or be changed to a touch D-pad configuration. Other options include some security settings and times in which it can be active can be set. Saved videos and stills can be accessed through the app and it also has a function for sharing access. Since it has full access to the interior of your home, shared access is controlled by the app and can be revoked at any time, a good security measure since it has access to everything within the home.
What does it do?
Since it connects via Wi-Fi, users can control it from anywhere in the world. One of the ideas behind this device is to give owners the ability to monitor their homes while away, but can also check in on pets and interact with them when the house is devoid of human activity. AI programming can detect either pets or humans to track them and allows EBO to interact with them, although sensors cause EBO to stop before coming into contact. With its e-pet mode, users can set EBO to perform a few tasks at set intervals. EBO can be set to roam and take video or still images at set times on a schedule or it can be similarly set to run about just to entertain your pet.
The microphone and speaker give you the ability to interact with whoever is in the room with EBO, be it people or pets, and it also features a laser, a common toy that can keep cats busy for hours, that points to the floor a few inches in front of it. There is no guarantee the people or the pets in the room will give EBO any attention, as members of many species may lack interest. However, for the frolicking felines and conniving canines with insatiable curiosity, EBO may be an endless source of entertainment.
To ensure play continues uninterrupted, EBO is designed to automatically right itself in most situations, making it possible for cats to swat and bat at it with no fear of it ending up like an overturned turtle. Furthermore, EBO has several utterances programmed that it may sound off either autonomously or on command. When it leaves the base on one of its scheduled runs and, when it's time to return, it exclaims, "I'm going home to charge."
How well does it work?
The marketing of the EBO is clearly targeted toward pet owners. My house has four cats, one charmingly annoying little dog, and three kids, so I thought it would be the ideal place to try it out. Driving the little fellow feels a bit like flying a drone, only on two axes instead of three. This brings the learning curve down significantly and EBO only takes a few minutes to get used to. The camera is excellent in light and dark conditions, making navigation a breeze. The included speaker and microphone along with universal access make for fun pranks and interactions with occupants of the house while away, and this is the idea of how to use it with pets. Unfortunately for me, my pets were wholly disinterested. I had one cat stare at it with intense curiosity and followed it for a few minutes before wandering off to do whatever a cat does. Otherwise, the other cats and the dog ignored it as though it did not exist, much like my children do to me sometimes.
The little EBO functions well, despite the disinterest of my pets. The tracks give it excellent mobility and the battery seems to last very long as I never needed to recharge it. My house floors are entirely hard surfaces and I had no opportunity to test it on carpet, however, I did get EBO stuck in my kitchen as it was unable to go over the trim piece that creates a border between the tiled kitchen and wood dining room. It was an unfortunate situation as my kids and I were using EBO to annoy their mother while waiting to pick up the other kid from school. EBO was hopelessly stuck and no matter how I approached the dining room, EBO could not overcome the half-inch slope of the molding.
I tried setting EBO to perform some of the automated tasks at different intervals with less than satisfying results. Having set the base in my bedroom next to my desk, there was not a lot of floor space to roam as it is mostly occupied by furniture. While EBO can adeptly cruise throughout the house when being driven, on its own it seemed to just move around that same area of a few square feet, turning to avoid obstacles that basically surrounded it. I think this would work better in an open space like a living room, and especially good if confined to a small apartment with an open floor plan. Also, since my house is occupied nearly 100% of the time, opportunities for it to run about autonomously were scarce.
I also gave my kids access to EBO to do with as they pleased. Multiple users require authorization to use it and it can be revoked by the main user at any time. This is a good feature as EBO can roam throughout the house with sight and sound that can be picked up from anywhere in the world. Without this secure access, it would present a genuine security threat, especially for stalkers and thieves casing your home. To use EBO, they had to download the app and use it to scan a QR code generated by my copy of the app. They enjoyed using EBO and took particular delight in the various "tricks" it performs and the various cutesy sounds it makes. As far as they are concerned, I may have found the best use for it is to drive it into their bedrooms and announce that it is time to wake up and get ready for school. I found this completely entertaining while they certainly found it completely annoying. But it worked.
How practical is it?
EBO is an interesting little device. It appears to be a well-made device and the technology is up-to-date with its high-quality cameras and its app-based controls. I can see how it could be endlessly entertaining for pets with cats likely the most engaged. I can also see how some people at work would want to check in on their pets with it and provide a bit of companionship during a long shift at work as well as a break from the rigors of the day for themselves. Obviously, it will be better for some pets more than others as mine had no interest in it at all.
EBO also serves as an interesting form of security device. It is cheap and easy to mount security cameras inside and out of our homes these days, but EBO can provide a bit of extra coverage. The biggest security benefit is that it can provide extra visual security coverage to the whole house with no installation of any kind and can cover an entire single floor of a house for one price. It probably should not serve as a singular security camera, but as an addition to home security camera systems, depending on the size of the domicile.
My family and I had a lot of fun playing with the Enabot EBO Air. It is certainly a clever device. The current retail price on the Enabot official website is $229. The price is such that it is not terribly expensive, but not downright cheap either. It would be difficult for some people to justify the expense for what they might get from it, especially if they had an indifferent cat. While it does have bona fide security uses, it is more of a novelty. As a toy for pets or humans, it is fun. The fun may lose its luster after a while, but it would be worth keeping charged and at the ready anyway. For young professionals who do have much-loved pets at home and a little disposable income, this would be an easy purchase. And while it can offer some security features, it is no substitute for stationary, mounted cameras.I would recommend a purchase of Enabot's EBO Air with some caveats. If you know your pets do not show interest in toys, they probably won't react to this, although your Sony aibo might if you have one of them. If you have small children, I can see this thing getting picked up and moved all over the house, ending up under beds or in hampers and maybe even in the backyard – it is probably better for older kids. You might refrain from buying this if the money could be better spent on something more useful. But if you can afford a couple of hundred dollars for a toy you may only use occasionally, go ahead and get it, it's worth the price.