When his smart speakers didn’t work as well as hoped, he built a better system.
Ashutosh Saxena is the CEO and cofounder of Brain of Things, which developed an AI system called Caspar that turns a home into a sort of robot that we can talk to and interact with. By later this summer, Caspar will have been installed in about 500 apartments in California and Tokyo.
Each of these apartments is outfitted with around 100 devices including motion and humidity sensors, microphones, cameras, thermostats, and automated appliances. All of these feed data about residents’ behavior to Caspar, which uses a number of algorithms to analyze the data so that it gradually learns and adapts to people’s habits and preferences.
If you tend to ask a lot of questions about the packages you are expecting, Caspar will learn to send you alerts when they arrive. It will also learn to tailor its music playlist to what you are doing at the moment.
When asked whether it’s safe to entrust so many intimate details of our lives to a computer, Saxena says the sensitive raw data generated is stored within the home and not uploaded to the cloud.
The idea of creating Caspar came about in 2015, when Saxena and his roommate took home a couple of smart speakers. These devices, such as the Amazon Echo, can play music, order things online, switch the lights on and off, and do many other things around the house. But the roommates struggled to make the gadgets work the way they wanted them to. The virtual helpers sometimes turned off the wrong light, and when their masters’ schedules changed, they couldn’t adjust their control of other devices accordingly.
So Saxena, a robotics researcher, decided to build a better system.
“You no longer need to worry about packages not arriving at your home,” Saxena says. “Caspar notifies you of such things, orders dishwasher soap, or controls your home environment according to your preferences.”