In our job we meet a lot of different people throughout the industry. But at the Intel Developers Forum 2014 we “met” a robot for the first time: Jimmy, the customisable, programmable and 3D-printed creation from Intel and Trossen Robotics.
And the first thing he did? Tell a terrible joke. Because 45cm-tall Jimmy has some almost-human-like abilities. He can talk, walk and be programmed in HTML5 via a software development kit to do even more.
Jimmy isn't all fun and jokes though, his aluminium frame demands a serious $1,600 price tag and his customisable exterior, which is 3D printed, comes at additional cost. As an owner of Jimmy you can design your own robot exterior - he (or she) needn't be the monochrome cute-faced little guy.
Jimmy is app controlled, with various abilities possible. But it's not a case of him doing certain tasks straight out of the box, as this is no toy. Jimmy is the embodiment of the maker movement; its up to his owners to program new abilities.
If the little guy isn't doing it for you then how about the original super-size Jimmy? He's also for sale, but costs some $16,000. Yep, a whole extra zero on the price tag.
We met Jimmy's larger brother on the show floor (as you can see in our video) and watched the counter-weighted, bi-pedal droid walk - eventually following Brian David Johnson, Intel futurist, around the carpeted floor. Maybe he thinks he's his father which, in many respects, he is, having begun working on the Jimmy project over a decade ago.
With two cameras on board Jimmy can "see" what is going on, hence his ability to follow and react. But in his first form there's room for additional development - something we expect to see in the future.
For example, having been shown the Intel RealSense camera, which is built into the Dell venue 8 7000 tablet, there's scope for that technology - which, using three lenses can capture and measure depth - to be used to judge distances for other useful tasks. But that sounds like Jimmy the second coming. Or maybe he'll be called Dave, who knows.
And yet, for now anyway, Jimmy isn't comparable to a human. He might wave, and you can shake his hand - but there's no grip there. And we don't just mean it's not a firm handshake - we're sure he'd want it to be - but that this particular robotic build isn't capable of such complex manoeuvres. Hands are tricky things.
Jimmy does, however, have a Twitter account. So if you want to follow the day in a life of a robot then follow him at @21CRobot. There are some amusing pictures in among the 21stcenturyrobot.com website too.
Whether robots will be embedded in our existence in the next few years remains to be seen. What we do know is that Jimmy is a fun way to access some of the deeper, detailed technology and programming that goes on to make him intelligent. We see him as an educational tool, really, and a clever way for Intel to showcase its Edison chip too - but even if you're not interested in that, Jimmy's worth giving attention because… well, look at him, he's ridiculously cool.