OhmniLabs, a Silicon Valley-based robotics startup, has launched Ohmni, a home robot that lets families connect in a more natural and engaging way than any video chat. During the crowdfunding campaign, the robot will be available for an introductory price of $1,399. This price is $500 off the MSRP.

Ohmni is a fresh approach to telepresence that’s designed specifically for homes and families. Ohmni makes it natural and effortless to join in and share experiences like cooking with mom, family dinner, movie night or game day with dad — across any distance. The team at OhmniLabs studied families around the world and found that these “shared experiences” were what people missed most since standard video chat was too cumbersome to enable these richer interactions.

Ohmni is designed from the ground up with simplicity in mind. To set up, just unfold Ohmni, press the power button, and connect to your home Wi-Fi. Share access by inviting family and friends by email address or Google or Facebook account. They can use Chrome browser on any Mac/PC or Android device to connect to Ohmni from anywhere in the world. Interact freely by controlling Ohmni with the keys, trackpad, or touch controls.

“Families today are often spread out across countries and continents, making it a challenge to stay in touch. We created a robot that people can use everyday to not only communicate but experience life together. The possibilities are endless. I use Ohmni with my grandma in Vietnam and it’s amazing how natural our interaction is,” said Thuc Vu, co-founder and CEO of OhmniLabs.

Unlike other robotics and telepresence companies, OhmniLabs builds each robot locally in their facility in Santa Clara, CA using a scalable additive manufacturing process which they’ve tested and refined over the last two years. Every Ohmni is made to order and incorporates materials like bamboo and brushed aluminum to create a robot that you’re proud to display in your home.

Ohmni allows you to enjoy meaningful, shared experiences with the following features:

  • Quick setup- Arrives fully assembled and ready to go. Just unbox, unfold, and connect to WiFi.
  • Zero hassle calling- No account creation required, no software to install. OhmniLabs’s cloud backend integrates with Google and Facebook authentication to make it easy to share your bot with family and friends. Call with one click from any Mac/PC/Android device using a web browser.
  • Hands-free experience- Controlled 100% remotely with built-in autodocking to the charging station. Seniors don’t need to fuss with a computer or tablet.
  • Ultra-responsive tilting head- Amplifies presence and freedom of interaction. Ceiling-to-floor vertical tilt with fluid motion to capture your dynamic gestures.
  • MotionMap (TM) technology- Tightly integrated hardware and software allows you to use the mouse or touchpad for direct control of the robot’s neck and body.
  • Glide Drive technology- Whisper-silent brushless motors provide ultra-smooth motion on any surface.
  • Lightweight and portable- Weighs only 20 lbs and folds in half for easy transportation. Take it out on the deck or bring it to a family gathering.
  • Open platform- Cloud programmable using OhmniAPI. Also integrates with Amazon Alexa API.

In order to obtain user feedback, OhmniLabs conducted a pilot program over the past six months with families that have elders living far away. The ability to easily connect on a daily basis has proven helpful for these families and their feedback has been positive. This program was recently featured in the New York Times Retiring section.

“Asking my mom to drag out the iPad every time we wanted to video chat felt like a huge burden. We always love watching TV together in person. Now Ohmni lets us do just that — from 8,300 miles away! It was the first thing we did when we received our robot. The smile on my mom’s face was priceless and it’s a great feeling to bond like that again,” said LCpl Andrew Lyle, US military personnel stationed in Japan.

Ohmni was also created as an open and extensible platform through a cloud programming API known as OhmniAPI, which is designed to make programming robots as fast as developing web apps. Developers and businesses can build custom integrations on top of the full telepresence experience, the Ohmni software stack, or the low level hardware. Ohmni integrates with the Amazon Alexa API for home automation and general use when not in a call.

The robots will begin shipping to early backers in four months. International orders are accepted.