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Peeqo – the GIF Communicating Robot

written by Samrat Roy Chowdhuri January 28, 2017

Hola Peeqo! 🙂

We have discussed about Conversational UI on mobile platforms and hand held devices, including Apple TV and how CUI has been embedded in applications.


If you still haven’t read about examples of conversational UI, follow the link.

However, Abhishek Singh did not quite implement conversational UI on some android apps. He created an entire robot during his stint at New York University as part of the thesis project. He named it “Peeqo”.

What is Peeqo

Peeqo is a pint sized glass wearing robotic assistant with big dorky eyes that employs conversational UI to communicate and reply to users using GIFs.

According to its creator, the pint sized assistant is a ‘Disney character’ and ‘love child of Amazon Echo’.

Features of Peeqo

The principal features of this robot includes:

– Peeqo is an 8 inch tall personal robotic assistant

– It has a soft exoskeleton body

– The bot uses GIFs to communicate

– It uses a camera to monitor and record the environment around itself

– Peeqo consists of a Raspberry Pi micro

– It Consists of six servo motors

– The robot consists of four microphones

– It also has a USB speaker

– Two Arduino micro-controllers

– It comes with an attached LCD Screen

– It can play music from Spotify

– Peeqo uses Google Speech API and API.ai for voice recognition and replies

The robotic assistant has microphones placed in its ears, audio output on the top of its head, camera on its chest (if I may say so).

The exoskeleton is soft to help it to move and bend in different ways.

How Peeqo was Created

Abhishek has always been inspired by robots.

He told HuffPost – “One of the reasons I wanted to build this bot was because I feel a lot of the conversation on social robotics today centres around their inability to express emotion or to be relatable. I love GIFs as much as every other person and they’ve become a universal language of sorts on the Internet and beyond, capable of depicting almost anything from emotion to information. Often a GIF just says it better. I felt combining the two would create something really unique and perhaps overcome some of those challenges.”

The robot was first modelled on paper to ensure that it looked approachable.

Once the initial sketches were finalized, he used a plastic pipe, a tennis ball and few sticks to build a prototype. It consisted of a head mounted on the top with the base hosting two servo motors and the circulatory.

He used the Stewart platform and a 3D printer to carve out parts.

The Stewart platform has six actuators in pairs to control an upper platform holding the robot’s head. This allows the flexible movement Abhishek wanted, and the empty space in the center of the mechanism provided room for routing wires between the base and the head

For programming, he used a Raspberry Pi3 mini computer for the head. 2 Arduino Mini was used for the movement. The GIFs are imported from GIPHY.

Peeqo and Conversational UI

We have seen and read about apps and assistants that employ conversational UI through voice commands, text and buttons.

What sets Peeqo apart is that it takes conversational UI to an altogether different level because it is perhaps the first robotic assistant that communicates through GIFs.

When users ask Peeqo a query, a white notification light at the back of its head goes on. It means the robot is listening to you and thinking about the  query.

Whenever you call him “Peeqo”, he responds with a sweet and musical “hmm” and straightens up his head which means “I am hearing, what do you want”. Now that’s building character into your bot!

For example, during a video showing the robot in action, he asks how to say ‘GIF’ – he asks if it should be pronounced as ‘GIF’ or ‘jif’.

Its first response is a meme from a scene in ‘Pulp Fiction’ with Samuel L. Jackson threatening him that it should not be pronounced as ‘jif’.

The developer has written a Chrome extension that can help Peeqo keep users in check from accessing social media. Once the robotic assistant is asked to block a certain site, it voices his displeasure in GIF format.

Peeqo in Action

Peeqo – What the Future Holds

According to Abhishek he has received a number of ideas for Peeqo to become better and more efficient.

He is already working to integrate Peeqo with external services and smart devices. There are plans to implement more machine learning into its responses to make it more effective.

Expect the robot to have a more well defined personality down the line. A personality that is shaped by how the users interact with the robotic assistant.

My Take on Peeqo

Peeqo is cute, sweet, small and can become your leisurely friend bot in no time. If you are having a tough day, this robotic assistant can help you chill and relax with its collection of GIFs that will definitely help you feel alive again.

From the few videos that I have seen on Peeqo, it is not the perfect bot.

At times it failed to take queries or replied not correctly, it cannot hear over music it is playing and needs a tap on its nose. This just shows that bots are still in their early stages of maturity and a lot needs to be achieved.

It’s a great start and Abhishek open sourcing it will only improve Peeqo in the medium to long term.

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2 comments

Conversational User Interface (CUI) - A Brief Introduction | The Techie Blog January 28, 2017 at 10:11 am

[…] Don’t forget to check out this cute, sweet and entertaining robotic assistant called Peeqo […]

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9 Conversational UI Examples | The Techie Blog March 24, 2017 at 9:41 am

[…] forget to check out Peeqo the cute robotic assistant that communicates through […]

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