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Keecker Is a $4,000 Egg-Shaped Robot That Wants to Replace Your Entire Entertainment System

Alyssa Bereznak
·National Correspondent, Technology
Keecker home entertainment robot
Keecker home entertainment robot

(Darren Weaver/Yahoo Tech)

Thin, flat screens are probably all over your home: on your television, on your computer monitor, and on any number of “smart” devices in your pocket.

But when former French Googler Pierre Lebeau began work on a new kind of home entertainment system in 2012, he wanted nothing to do with them.

“I didn’t want to have another rectangle,” Lebeau told Yahoo Tech at a demo last week. His invention is certainly not another rectangle: Lebeau has created an egg-shaped household robot named Keecker, which syncs with your devices and acts as a projector, sound system, webcam, and home monitoring system. As Lebeau demoed an early version of Keecker for me, the egg-bot was projecting the music video for Pharrell’s “Come Get It Bae,” on the blank white wall behind us.

Screen showing Keecker projection of music video
Screen showing Keecker projection of music video

(Darren Weaver/Yahoo Tech)

Keecker is a soft, plastic orb that measures 11 inches wide and 16 inches long. “I wanted something warmer, organic, and natural,” Lebeau says of the design. It zips around the floor on a pair of wheels that make it seem like a distant, taller cousin of the Roomba. You can control it on your phone via an app for iOS or Android, but it’s also able to navigate your house on its own, too.

It’s packed with motors that power it, sensors that measure temperature and air qualities, a 360-degree camera, and a projector that it can aim at any surface in your house — floor, wall, or ceiling — to project what’s on your computer screen, the latest episode of Scandal, or a giant moving image of the Milky Way.

Lebeau is seeking to raise a whopping $100,000 via the crowdfunding site Kickstarter to make Keecker a reality. The peculiar orb will cost around $4,000 per unit if the campaign is successful.

Lebeau likes to refer to the Keecker as “a collective computer” that’s meant for the use of an entire family, not just one individual. He also hopes that, by harnessing the functions of multiple devices, it will free people from the confines of their couch or laptop screen.

Like a Roomba, Keecker gets to know your living quarters thanks to the tech burrowed into its core. When you bring it home and remove it from its box, it’ll begin to look around, scanning every part of the place so it can map its environment. You’re then tasked with manually naming the rooms in Keecker’s floor plan, so you can later instruct it to visit a specific location in your house, remotely from your app.

“Keecker,” you might say, “come play the new Drake music video in the wine cellar.” And Keecker could do that, because it knows where the wine cellar is, and it can play music videos.

What’s more, based on these guidelines, Keecker can roll into whatever room you instruct it to and evaluate its vitals, collecting information about carbon dioxide levels, air quality, humidity, temperature, noise, and movement. If one of these measurements doesn’t fall in line with the preset conditions you’ve chosen for your home, it’ll alert you to the change. It can tell you if there’s a leak in your bathroom, if you forgot to turn off your hair straightener, or if someone left the oven on.

Keecker home entertainment robot
Keecker home entertainment robot

(Darren Weaver/Yahoo Tech)

While you’re at work, you can also flick a switch, and — like a Dropcam — Keecker will give you a window inside your home to spy on your cat or to record any suspicious movements onto the machine’s hefty terabyte of local storage. If you’re a helicopter homeowner, or want to frighten your children, you can even project your face onto the wall from afar.

Lebeau describes these capabilities as a sort of multimedia security system that can deter intruders à la Macaulay Culkin’s character in Home Alone.

“If you’re away, you can create scenarios where on the holidays or at night, you can put on music or movies, or imitate the sound of a barking dog just to show there’s a presence in your house,” he said.

Keecker also recognizes human presence in a room and will follow you or your loved ones around while you’re video chatting — a feature that allows for more natural movement around your house.

Keecker home entertainment robot
Keecker home entertainment robot

(Darren Weaver/Yahoo Tech)

And when you want it to take a less active role in your social gatherings, you can simply instruct it to project giant moving images of scenery or underwater expeditions on a wall and let it set the tone for your environment.

Mercifully, Keecker works without needing an outlet, running on a rechargeable battery that allows it to roam free. Even when you’re running it at full capacity — blasting sound and projecting video — it can last for seven straight hours, plenty of party time. If your use is more intermittent, Lebeau says, it can last up to a week. And when it starts running low on juice, it’ll navigate back to its inductive charging stand all on its own and begin charging. Talk about low maintenance.

Keecker home entertainment robot
Keecker home entertainment robot

(Darren Weaver/Yahoo Tech)

Though you can control Keecker from its app on either iOS or Android, the computer inside it runs on Android, and therefore allows it to project whatever media is available within the Google Play store. This is where Lebeau and his team see almost endless possibilities. He envisions that developers will be able to make their own apps for Keecker, whether it’s a game to play with pets while you’re away or a monitoring system that can tell you how well your child slept the night before.

I spent about an hour with Keecker, and it was clear that the beta version of the machine and its accompanying app were not yet as capable as Lebeau would hope. It projected audio and images in an impressive way, and moved effortlessly on the ground, but the beta version of Keecker didn’t yet seem to carry the all-knowing intelligence Lebeau envisions in his final product.

Keecker didn’t have a chance to map our office floors, but it also seemed to heavily rely on the instruction of its handlers, not yet able to use its many sensors to avoid the occasional unwelcome collision or, for that matter, scope out the best place to project in a room.

Though it’s still early in the development process, it’s hard to say whether this is enough to justify Keecker’s $3,990 price tag. Is that amount more than the worth of your entire entertainment system? Probably. Would you trade it in entirely in order to try an experimental home-monitoring robot? Probably not. Perhaps better to wait for the Keecker 2 — or at least a review of the finished project.

I will say this: The Keecker team has a respectable vision for how a home entertainment system is supposed to be. We’re definitely advanced enough to have devices come to us, and not the other way around. The portability of your largest screen, without having to find fresh outlets, is also a welcome change. Whether the team can intrigue enough investors and developers with that premise, however, will be decided by the Kickstarter gods. Sorry; I’m not about to drop 4K on a whirling white egg.

That being said, if you’re interested in being a patron, the first 20 Keeckers will be heavily discounted at $1,990, and it’ll go up from there. Developers can also pay $50 for their own package that includes access to Keecker’s back end. Check out the details at Keecker’s Kickstarter page here.

Follow Alyssa Bereznak on Twitter or email her.