Yves Béhar has embraced the robot revolution, designing everything from automated cribs to “emotionally intelligent companions” for older adults. With his firm Fuseproject’s work for Cobalt, a robotics company founded by GoogleX and SpaceX engineers, he’s taking on yet another aspect of the human experience.
Cobalt’s newest invention gadget replaces the human security guard with a slim, self-piloted automaton. Intended to be used in a fleet, the robots combine cameras and algorithms to identify anomalies in an office—a water leak, an unwanted visitor—with ease. The devices are also capable of assisting their human coworkers with tasks and directions, and as such, required a look more familiar than R2D2. Béhar chose to model the robot after furniture rather than a humanoid, cloaking it in a tensile fabric skirt. “The balance definitely skewed towards discretion and adapting to the office environment,” Béhar says. “People need to feel comfortable working around these robots.”
As cushiony as Cobalt may appear, it still raises concerns about Big Brother-style supervision. An office owner himself, Béhar cautions against such conclusions. “Surveillance doesn’t have to mean an invasion of personal privacy,” he says. “You can collect data about the way an office functions without targeting individuals.” One would certainly hope so.