Height 60 cm, weight 7 kg. Equipped with three wheels, this “emotional companion” robot named Buddy can move around effortlessly with over 8 hours of battery life. The Boulanger brand chose it to welcome and inform customers in certain stores. In the north of France, he wanders through thirty nursing homes, helping the elderly in their daily lives. Thus, with the help of videoconferencing, older people can communicate with their loved ones.
The bulk of the Buddy Squad (1,850 units) have been using their wheels on elementary school desks since 2021. Robots allow sick or hospitalized children to monitor lessons remotely. They were developed by Blue Frog Robotics, founded in 2014. They are made in Beauvais. Frédéric Louis, head of innovation at Santech in Lannion, hopes they can be engineered in Brittany in 2023.
A subsidiary of the Teamnet group (community software company) since 2019 after competitive production, the Santech innovation, formerly called Alyacom, has brought its own brick to the Buddy robot. “Alyacom’s experience prompted Teamnet to delegate a project related to the Ministry of National Education to us. It’s called Ted-i: working together at a distance and in interaction.” Buddy has been selected for this mission. Teamnet owns shares in Blue Frog Robotics. Thus, Santech’s technical innovation skills were naturally added to Buddy. “We brought what we call software integration and logistics. We also manage all product support.” At school, Buddy provides telepresence for absent students. Through the tablet, the child can take control. It is also a tool for autistic children with applications developed by the innovative company Santech in specialized institutions.
At what price?
Big brother Buddy is expected to arrive next year. It will grow to be 90cm tall. Frédéric Louis hopes it will go on sale in 2023. At what price? “Less than 2000 euros. Today it costs a lot more,” says Santec Innovation Manager. Buddy will be integrated “in the very near future” into the connected object universe via the Healysa platform. It will communicate with different tools: a cat GPS tracker, a watch for the elderly, a surveillance camera… “We are interested in technology forever. It’s technology for well-being.” It is also the gateway to home automation.
Santech Innovation has ten employees, including five in Lannion. Buddy is not his only activity. It has retained what made Alyacom, launched in 2009, a success: a mobile solution for remotely managing personal care or home care structures. She has a hundred other clients in this niche. This is the main part of his activity. “The team is getting stronger. I recruit. I would like to see fifteen of us by the end of 2022 or the beginning of 2023. We are growing rapidly,” concludes Frédéric Louis.