Company designs robot 'assistant'

Budgee, the friendly robotic assistant, was designed with one thing in mind: helping you carry your stuff.

"With Budgee, they just have to hold the transceiver or attach it to the back of their belt," said Five Elements Robotics CEO Wendy Roberts. "And when they walk, the robot will follow them, so they don't have to carry their things."

Budgee is Five Elements' first step toward bringing a future vision of consumer-level robots into the present. Budgee can haul about 50 pounds of stuff in its basket and can go anywhere a wheelchair can. It retails for about $1,400 online and it's assembled in New Jersey.

Sales have been good, according to Roberts, but not as good in the U.S. as overseas, where she describes an enthusiasm for new robotic products, especially in Asian markets.

The company's next product might make a bigger impact here. It's called DASH, a robotic shopping cart being marketed to the biggest retailers. DASH will ingest a shopper's list, escort that shopper across the store item by item, and most importantly, allow that shopper to check out of the store while avoiding checkout lines.

"Many people to abandon lines if they have to wait more than five minutes," says Roberts. "And that's an issue. So for retailers, they have to solve that problem, particularly around Black Friday.

Roberts is hoping that DASH will be operational on store floors by the end of 2017.