Researchers from a number of companies and institutions including IDC Herzliya, Cornell University, and SK Telecom have developed a social robot that is designed to control your home too.

What sets this robot apart is that it isn’t a cute, mobile robot that follows you around, making facial expressions to show you it’s listening, or providing entertainment for your pet dog, it’s designed to work flawlessly.

Vyo has been described by the researchers as “a personal assistant serving as a centralized interface for smart home devices,” which you interact with on a more human level.

One of the researchers, Professor Guy Hoffman spoke to IEEE Spectrum about Vyo, describing it as a butler, rather than a PA:”The social presence should be quiet, peripheral, and respectful (like a butler) and not quirky and playful, since – after all – it is representing the wellbeing of your home.”

However, the group of researchers also thought it was important for the user to be in control and the robot to act as a lens, which is why it looks so much like a microscope.

The group used a set of five considerations into account when building Vyo. They wanted him to be engaging, connecting the home environment with the place in which it sits – the home. Therefore, its user interface is familiar and comforting. They thought any robot in the home should be unobtrusive and semi-automated.

Vyo breaks away from the social robot norms by being more device-like in design, rather than humanoid, because during research, few people wanted a home robot to be their mate. Vyo has respect for its owner and is reliable, reassuring, and trustworthy – making it a perfect companion for your home.

Another big shift from the usual social home robots is how Vyo is controlled. Rather than using a touchscreen with a smartphone-like UI for inputs, Vyo has been built on the ‘giving’ culture, similar to putting your keys in a bowl by the entrance to your home.

“Furthermore, the “giving” of objects traditionally is associated with “passing responsibility.” This was another novel interaction paradigm between humans and robots,” Hoffman said. “You literally “give” the robot the task. Finally, placing things is a very democratic interface, for example for populations who would have a harder time navigating a complex on-screen menu or a voice interface.”