Companionable home robots haven’t quite become the household fixture futurists once predicted they’d be by now, but Ebo X, the latest and most advanced device from the up-and-coming family robotics company Enabot, feels like a step closer to the vision. Ebo X debuted at CES 2023 with a splash, receiving Innovation Awards Honoree recognition in two categories. The self-balancing, spherical robot is touted as a home security device, caregiver’s assistant, and source of entertainment all in one, with a face that’s on Pixar levels of cuteness.
As Enabot puts it, “Ebo X is three home devices.” The soccer-ball-sized robot is equipped with V-Slam technology to create a grid-based map of the home, allowing users to assign highly precise room-based patrol actions. Areas within a room, like a fireplace or the foot of a staircase, can be marked as off-limits, triggering an alert if someone crosses the boundary. Ebo X has a 4K stabilized camera perched on its head for ultra clear video capture, and is designed to listen for the sound of a baby crying or be on watch for if a person in the household falls. It’s Alexa-enabled too, and boasts of high-quality audio thanks to its built-in speaker with Harman AudioEFX.
Setup & Steering Controls
Screen Rant tested Ebo X for several weeks, much of which was spent using the beta version of the app. As such, some of the early experience — namely, setup — was bumpy. In theory, it’s very straightforward. In practice… not so much. To connect Ebo X to the home network, a person needs to download the Ebo Home app on their smartphone and follow the simple instructions to begin the pairing process. After entering the Wi-Fi details, the app will generate a QR code which then needs to be held up in front of the robot so it can scan and connect to the network.
With the beta, it took countless repeated attempts to connect. After days of trying over and over again and resetting the device, it seemed it would never happen. And then it finally, miraculously connected. Once the public version of the app rolled out, it needed to be reset and paired all over again. That time around, it was a lot smoother — but still not entirely seamless. After a couple of failed attempts, however, we were online and Ebo X was ready to get to work. The takeaway: users will need to be patient and expect a few hiccups during pairing.
Once the robot is set up, there are a few ways to control its movement. It can run autonomously based on instructions the user has set, but it can also be controlled manually by virtual joysticks/arrow buttons within the app. For anyone who has gaming experience and is comfortable using a standard controller, driving Ebo X around remotely will be a breeze. There’s sure to be a bit of a learning curve for those who aren’t as familiar with such controls, but the layout on the app makes it as simple as possible. Users can adjust Ebo’s speed as well, so advanced drivers can zoom and those still practicing can take things slowly. The app allows users to swap which sides the driving controls are on based on the standard configurations in the U.S. or Japan, or switch between one-handed and two-handed controls.
Security & Safety Monitoring
As mentioned above, users can set scheduled or activity-triggered tasks for Ebo so it provides autonomous home monitoring, or drive the robot around manually for on-demand needs. The option to drive Ebo around and see what the robot sees is one of its biggest selling points, and it really delivers. Even with my frankly terrible rural home internet, the robot was extremely responsive and precise in its movements. Being able to control its exploration means the operator, likely a person who isn’t home and wants to check on something, can seek out exactly what they’re looking for.
When a family emergency kept me away from home later than usual one night, for instance, I was able to reliably use Ebo X to peek at what my dog, who is blind and has separation anxiety, was up to. It didn’t matter if he’d wandered into a different corner of the room from where Ebo was facing, I could just drive it around until I found him. Enabot’s other, much cheaper and smaller robots can do this as well, but what really sets Ebo X apart is the ability to control the camera angle.
Ebo X doesn’t just look straight ahead — the camera angle can be adjusted to look up and down, too. This seemingly small feature can be useful in a major way. Have you ever been hit with that mid-commute panic that maybe you didn’t turn the stove all the way off after cooking breakfast? Just drive Ebo X over to the stove, point the camera up at the dials, and see in 4K UHD that, phew, of course you remembered to turn it off.
As for autonomous tasks, a person can set up scheduled patrols or have Ebo X keep watch from where it’s sitting. The process of enabling security tasks in the app could definitely be better, but Ebo’s execution is almost always on point. The app gives users the option to assign tasks in four categories: ‘Smart Assistant,’ ‘Security Monitoring Assistant,’ ‘Fixed-Location Security,’ and ‘Crying Detection.’ The wording and selections within these task categories can be somewhat confusing, like a fill-in-the-blanks sentence that doesn’t quite have all the necessary pieces to mesh well.
For an autonomous patrol, for example, the user has to build the task from three prompts, each with its own set of options to choose from. Prompt One is ‘When the robot,’ with choices including ‘Patrol by Route’; Prompt Two is simply ‘Moreover,’ with options like ‘Someone has fallen down’; and Prompt Three is ‘Just execute,’ wherein users can choose if they want text or call alerts. It feels clunky, and requires a lot more thinking than one necessarily wants to put into something like this.
Once the tasks are sorted out, though, Ebo X has its chance to shine. The Smart Assistant task is used when Ebo is serving as a companion, and it allows the user to give the robot a customized prompt that it should relay to the person it’s assisting. Users can set several of these for different purposes. The main example Enabot has used is that it can give medication reminders to specific people. The robot is equipped with facial recognition tech and can store multiple faces, which means it can have personalized interactions. In Screen Rant’s tests, it excelled at the medication reminder. At the designated time, I heard it leave the charging station to begin looking for me. It’ll drive around until it finds the person to whom it’s supposed to deliver the message — and, lo and behold, when it found me sitting on the living room couch, it kindly but firmly announced, “Cheyenne, take your meds!”
The crying detection worked well, too. After assigning this task, I pulled up a recording of a baby crying on YouTube and stashed my laptop in the other room, and Ebo X successfully initiated the alert and found its way over to the sound. It would be even better if the robot could detect other strange noises too, like breaking glass, objects crashing, barking, yelling, etc., to address other potential home security issues, but it’s a good start. Fall detection, on the other hand, wasn’t quite as successful. When Ebo X detects the specified activity, whether an intruder or that someone has fallen, its eyes turn red and its eye-dots rearrange into rotating lines. This happened, indicating it did detect a fall when I plunked myself down on the ground in front of it, but it never triggered the app call like it was supposed to.
The robot can capture images and record video to be stored in the app’s album, and users can add other family members to view what it sees. It doesn’t, however, automatically start recording video when its security or guardian tasks are triggered (at least not at this time). It will live stream the video to the user’s smartphone, or they can drop into the app to take a closer look and manually press the video record button so the footage will be saved, but not having the robot automatically start recording in these times is a mistake. The incident could be missed by the time the person answers the call, and they won’t have any footage to play back. Hopefully this will be added in a future update.
Performance — Image Quality & Battery Life
Ebo X takes incredibly detailed pictures and videos thanks to its 4K stabilized camera. Users can choose from SD, HD, FHD, and UHD picture quality for up to 3840 x 2160 pixels, or have the app automatically switch based on the network strength. In daylight, low-light, and full darkness, Ebo captures a full, clear view of its surroundings. If the subject is standing too close to the camera (my dog’s M.O.), they’ll likely be out of focus, but that’s to be expected. In night shots, you won’t be squinting trying to make out what’s in the shadows, because everything appears well illuminated. As mentioned, my internet connection often isn’t the best, and Ebo X still managed to stream crisp video. It’s really impressive, and definitely one of Ebo X’s strongest features.
Ebo X is also pretty solid in the battery life department. One pitfall many home robots tend to get caught in is the ‘return to charger’ death loop. After however much time of roaming around, they’ll begin a race against their dwindling battery to return to the charging station before they run out of juice. They often fail. Over the years of testing and buying robots like Anki’s Vector (now owned by Digital Dream Labs) and Roomba-style robo-vacs, I’ve gotten used to finding them lifeless in the middle of the room nowhere near their charger. It can be pretty frustrating, especially when it results in them missing an upcoming task. Ebo X didn’t let me down even once in this category. Without fail, the little robot has made it back to the charging station every day.
Ebo can spend a decent amount of time off on its own before needing to recharge, which is impressive considering it’s doing a lot at all times. I’ve had it off the dock, with the camera running and while using it as a Bluetooth speaker, for at least two hours before hearing its little warning that it needs to return to the charger. Ebo X will always announce when it’s time to charge, at about the 20 percent battery mark. It may take it a while to find its way back, but it seems to always get there.
There are some things that the robot still struggles with, though. It’s got settings for obstacle and collision avoidance, but Ebo X still does a fair amount of bumping into things. It’ll correctly stop if it’s driving straight toward someone who walks into its path going relatively slowly, but when it’s backing up trying to locate its charger, for example, it just goes. That potentially makes it a trip hazard, which can be dangerous especially in situations where it’s used as a guardian for an elderly family member. Ebo X also has edge-detection to avoid falls but it’s definitely not perfect — I wouldn’t place it upstairs unless there was a door or gate preventing it from making its way over to the top of the staircase.
The robot is, however, pretty durable. Its self-righting wheels worked every time to pick itself back up when knocked over (from floor-level) during testing, and it came away without any scratches. Warning for handling though: it’s a fingerprint magnet. Another issue buyers may have is that it struggles with carpets, even when they’re pretty thin. According to Enabot it can handle carpet clearance of 10mm, but it seemed to have trouble even thinner than that. When Ebo X gets stuck on something, though, it’ll announce it so you can come and give it a hand.
Alexa, Entertainment, & Family Sharing
Ebo X is compatible with Alexa, which brings the added option of voice controls. At this stage, however, the functionality is pretty limited and the setup is tedious, requiring the user to hop back and forth between the Ebo Home app and the Alexa app to enable skills. Currently, users can only do the basics, like asking Alexa to instruct the robot to play music or to follow them around. Ebo unfortunately doesn’t have its own native voice control option, so it’s either Alexa or nothing. It also doesn’t have the adorable Ebo voice Enabot’s other robots use. Still, for households already running Alexa-controlled IoT setups, it’ll fit right in. It would be great to see expansion in the future to include support for other smart assistants like Google Assistant, or Ebo itself.
When used as a Bluetooth speaker, Ebo X is a lot of fun. The sound quality is rich and can certainly fill a room, and Ebo’s adjustable eye and waist lights make it a more dynamic experience. In the app, users can choose between several preset color schemes or even make their own for it to display. The waist lights can be set to pulse along with the music, too. Ebo X is also just genuinely pleasant to look at. It’s really cute, and makes for a delightful addition to any room.
The option to do family calls and use the robot as a two-way communication device doesn’t feel quite complete. In the app, it’s very confusing to figure out how to even initiate such a scenario and even to add trusted members. People who are tech-savvy will eventually get there, but for use between family members including kids and elderly individuals, it seems too complex.
Ebo X: The Takeaway
When it comes down to it, the biggest factor in determining whether one should or shouldn’t buy Ebo X is the price; it’s proven itself to be capable and mostly delivers on its promises, albeit with some quirks that need to be ironed out. Ebo X is currently selling for a pre-order price of $999, which is no small chunk of money. Without the early-bird discount, it’ll be $1,099. It’s still significantly cheaper than perhaps the only comparable product out there right now, Amazon’s Astro, which costs $1599.99, but it’s still a very expensive product for the average person to consider.
Ebo X is undoubtedly an impressive device, though. The hardware is certainly there, which is crucial, and it does a lot of things really well, like precise real-time home monitoring. Enabot has already delivered on several updates from beta to the release of the public app, as well, that have improved the experience in significant ways. That’s a good sign considering its biggest downfall is the app, which in many ways does not feel intuitive for the user. This can (and has already begun to) get better over time with updates. Ebo X is expected to start shipping to early buyers in August, so there’s still time for even more improvements to roll out before it actually arrives in people’s homes. The company even says it’ll have ChatGPT integration soon.
For anyone who doesn’t balk at the $1,000 price tag, Ebo X would be a fun device to have around the house that’s sure to get some decent use. Otherwise, buyers shouldn’t break the bank trying to get their hands on it just yet — Enabot’s other robots, Ebo Air and Ebo SE, should be good enough for most people’s needs, and come in at $120-$229.