A sudden whir in the dark behind me makes me jump.
My heart is a jackhammer as I spin around to see a rectangular screen staring up at me out of the blackness.
There's nothing to worry about though. It's just my robot, waiting patiently for me to wake it up.
About Temi the robot
Introduced in September 2018 at Internationale Funkausstellung (IFA) Berlin, this personal robot also was displayed at the January 2019 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas and started shipping to buyers last spring.
• Apps: Nine are built in, including personal caddy, personal DJ and video calling. Alexa powers its voice assistant, adding more features.
• Dimensions: 1.5 feet deep, 1.1 feet wide, 3.2 feet tall
• Screen: 10.1-inch high-definition LCD touch screen
• Sound: Four omnidirectional digital microphones to listen to you. To transmit sound, one subwoofer for deep bass, two midrange speakers and two tweeters for high-frequency sound. With its Bluetooth 4.0, you can stream music through its speakers.
• Weight: 26 pounds
• Price: $1,999 on Amazon, including free shipping
For several weeks, it has been rolling around behind me, lurking in the living room, playing music on command and generally shadowing me as part of a test to see if the robot future promises a life of convenience — or dystopian creepiness.
The robot is called Tēmi, and the $1,999 gadget is not like the dedicated mechanical dog toys or single-function video-calling robots of the past that can cost hundreds of dollars more. Temi is the first model designed to be a home factotum — part personal assistant, part entertainer, part universal communicator.
She's about the size of a toddler, weighs 26 pounds and stands 3.2 feet high with wheels for feet and a 10-inch touch screen for a head. She comes with a self-docking charging station, and her battery lasts for about eight hours before requiring a refill.
Cameras, sensors keep Temi moving
To navigate a home without running into walls or over the dog's tail, Tēmi, which also can use a male voice, is bristling with high-tech sensors.
These includes three camera systems, four microphones and a light detection and ranging sensor, better known as lidar. That is the kind of technology used on some autonomous cars and the whirring gadget responsible for giving me a scare.
The cameras can be used for facial recognition so Tēmi knows it's you, and you even can teach Temi via voice commands to recognize when she's in the living room instead of the bedroom.
The last skill is a handy feature that means you can have her deliver a sandwich just by putting a plate on her tray, which doubles as a wireless phone-charging stand, and saying, “Tēmi, go to the living room.” The tray at the back of her screen can carry objects of up to 6.6 pounds for in-house deliveries of nachos or small cats.
Tēmi cofounder Yossi Wolf has said his grandmother inspired him to create the little robot as a helper. However, if you're entertaining fantasies of Lost in Space or The Jetsons, you'll be disappointed.
Tēmi can't climb or descend stairs, and unlike Robbie the Robot, Tēmi can't warn you of impending threats by waving her arms. She doesn't have any.
She's no Rosie the robot either. She can't perform domestic tasks such as doing the laundry, answering the door or baking cookies for Elroy.
And Tēmi isn't the outdoorsy type. She's strictly for rolling around the house.