The adorable, plain-looking robot KeepOn was initially invented to be a therapists tool in helping to treat autistic kids. Developed by Marek Michalowski, the idea was for a therapist to control the toy from a remote location using a video camera embedded in the robot to observe the child. The simple facial expression and its yellow-non threatening blob shape, as well as the lack of flashing lights and startling sounds all helped evoke positive responses from autistic children, who tend to dislike overstimulation.
But, a funny thing happened. After noticing that the KeepOn videos were going viral and there was “something in the way they moved”, Michaelowski teamed up Dr. Hideki Kozima (Sendai, Japan) to create a simple robotic toy, a less expensive scaled down version of the original research tool. It sits on your desk responding to music and doing its little dance. Looking like a blob of yellow with button eyes and nose, I must confess, the dancing MyKeepOn robot didn’t do much for me, nor did I find enough variation in its moves, but clearly it has it fans.
If you’re looking for a dancing sidekick to your PC, MyKeepOn will be available throughout the US, UK and Europe starting this month for $50. A portion of every MyKeepon purchase will be used to expand the KeepOn Pro family of research robots, which will be distributed to researchers and practitioners investigating the use of robots in autism therapy. A good cause, and a cute dancer.