While the H responds to users with visuals and sound, the R will add in motion; as such, Teenage Engineering is thinking of the R as its first foray into robotics. "Other robotics companies focus so much on having the unit move around, they don't really care about the interaction between the man and the machine," Kouthoofd said. "Teenage Engineering believes it has to give something back to the user, at an emotional level." Kouthoofd said. An example of that is how the R will respond to music. Teenage Engineering wrote custom software so that it'll analyze what's being played, divide up the beat and dance along, in time. It'll even recognize when there's a breakdown in a song and change things up.
Unsurprisingly, building the arm and its motors was the most challenging part of the process, particularly given that the team went from 3D-printed models to a working prototype in about six months. But despite the high level of engineering here, Kouthoofd hopes the speaker will be affordable — relatively speaking. "Hopefully the end product will not be a $2,000 robot," he said, "it'll hopefully be around $500 or $600." That's a lot more expensive than an Amazon Echo, but Teenage Engineering isn't afraid of charging premium prices. The OP-1 synthesizer still sells for $899, while the OD-11 speaker costs $999.
How exactly these products will work remains a bit of a mystery, largely due to the fact that both products are initially only launching in China. Most of the software and AI will be provided by Baidu and Raven, which Baidu purchased earlier this year. For those not familiar with Raven, the group now works on voice recognition and skill as well as design and hardware mechanics. Kouthoofd says it'll essentially do all the smart speaker things that devices from Google and Amazon are doing — it'll answer questions, play music, let you order food, control smart home devices and generally connect to Baidu's knowledge graph and servers to pull down info.
Kouthoofd admits that he's not 100 percent sure how the H will work in use, because his team has been so focused on the hardware side of things. But Raven had already built something similar for China; this new model will likely work the same way, just with Teenage Engineering's distinctive design language.