A week with Keecker: the R2D2-like robot that wants to replace your TV and speakers

We first spotted Keecker, a home robot with a built-in projector, at this year’s CES in Las Vegas and dutifully filed it away under “fun idea, but it’ll never make it to the high street” – but six months later one of the first retail units available has spent a week pootling around our living room.

What exactly is it?

Keecker is an Android-based, app-controlled orb (iOS or Android) loaded with a 720p projector, 4.1 speaker package including subwoofer, multiple web cameras and proximity sensors, Chromecast, voice control and a stripped back Android interface powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon quad-core processor and hefty 12Ah 300Wh lithium-ion battery offering six hours of continuous movie watching. Essentially it’s R2D2 without the snippy attitude.

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Design

A week with Keecker: the R2D2-like robot that wants to replace your TV and speakers

Measuring 38.8cm tall and roughly 27cm in diameter, the 9kg dome of white plastic is hardly discreet, but, despite our dog’s initial misgivings we soon grew accustomed to it being around. There’s something Wall-E (or rather his hi-tech girlfriend EVE) about it, which is no bad thing, but remember it will need a permanent home to dock and charge.

Aside from the power switch there are no controls on the Keecker; everything is all done using either voice or app control.

There’s a 360-degree camera on the top, facing forward, and the projector is hidden behind a plastic cover, as are the speakers and subwoofer.

Underneath looks like a typical robot vacuum – minus the cleaning technology – with four rubber-coated wheels and charging points.

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Smart-home features

While the Keecker is sold as a smart-home device, in reality the web cameras offer more novelty that security, as there’s no motion or sound detection like Nest Cam or Hive View. You can drive the unit around the house while looking through the cameras (13MP Sony 360-degree fisheye and 5MP front-facing cam), but this hardly constitutes home security.

Image quality is perfectly acceptable, but we can’t imagine ever using this feature. Sure, we could check if the dog is on the sofa, but in these heady days of the Internet of Things we expect to be alerted to his misdemeanors, rather than having to find out for ourselves.

Keecker can however map out your home – the open plan, single level parts at any rate – and once it’s familiar with the layout it can find its way home for charging but can also be called upon in specific locations.

You can store multiple ‘spots’ via the app, and Keecker will remember the location.

It’s supposed to also remember screen settings and dimensions, but in our test it only ever managed a vague approximation of the actual screen position we wanted, which became irritating. And it’ll do all of this using the voice command “Hey Keecker”… well, some of the time. If you’re playing music – even at low volume – it struggled to hear commands, that or it was ignoring us.

Either way, the voice control system needs work.

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The robot can be linked to Google Assistant and as a skill on Amazon Alexa, which does improve things but does require an Echo Dot or similar sensor in every room.

Worryingly, Keecker also struggled getting onto rugs, and controlling it on anything but hard floors was difficult. Smaller movements – essential in positioning the screen accurately – were extremely difficult to master and we lost count of the times we manhandled the unit instead of fiddling about with the cursor controls on the app.

Projector

A week with Keecker: the R2D2-like robot that wants to replace your TV and speakers

We set up three projector positions across the ground floor of a typical open-plan three-bed semi: one so a four-year-old could watch Hey Duggee while eating her dinner; one on the kitchen ceiling (just because you can); and one projecting onto the chimney breast in the living room.

The 720p fixed focal length LED projector can manage a 78-inch screen at 1.5m away from the wall or across the ceiling (it can rotate through 90-degrees), but in practice the display looked significantly better at 40-50 inches. You need near total dark to make the most of the quoted 6,000:1 contrast ratio and 1,000 lumens, but for bedroom-based box-set sessions or working out alongside YouTube videos it’s perfectly acceptable.

It’s never going to replace your TV, but is terrific fun, especially if you’re a four-year-old. “Can the robot play Paw Patrol on the ceiling? Can I watch Minions in my bedroom?” To her, it didn’t matter that the screen was skewwhiff, contrast all wrong for the light conditions or the picture a little out of focus. She just loved having a TV-playing robot pal.

Audio

With four 10W speakers and a hefty 50W subwoofer, Keecker is quite the party animal.

We were thoroughly impressed by the room-filling sound, and while it won’t excite an audiophile, it’s brilliant for a party, offering hefty basslines and impressive volume.

You can download Spotify, Deezer, Google Play Music, etc to Keecker via the Google Play store or use Spotify Connect from your smartphone. There’s an option in the app to transfer music over Wi-Fi direct to the robot’s hard drive (32 or 160GB), and it can even act as the master and play music through your existing Bluetooth speakers, not that you need to.

Keecker app

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We don’t envy the task facing Keecker’s app developers. Not only do they have to include remote controls for a robot with web-cam monitoring, but there’s projector settings and streaming options to sort out, not forgetting control over Chromecast, Google TV, Netflix, Spotify and countless other apps that all do things slightly differently.

On the whole they’ve done a decent job – the joypad style remote for moving Keecker manually is fun to use, and adjusting the projector is spot on, but when it comes to navigating through the layers of Google Play – or any app you download – it rarely feels intuitive.

Having to switch between cursor, trackpad and keyboard made even a basic click feel like a mission.

It’s difficult to create a seamless experience when combining app-control and desktop functions, all via a projector screen, but we think it would be made so much simpler if the app mirrored the on-screen display. Laggy, hard-to-find cursors and fiddly navigation shouldn’t be an issue in 2018.

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Verdict

If you live in a large open-plan penthouse apartment with hard floors, few rugs and a lot of bare white walls, Keecker could well be the perfect home entertainment system. It’s undeniably fun to use, versatile and has a genuine whiff of the future about it.

At GBP1,690, from Smartech Selfridges, it’s also surprisingly good value, even if much of that is of the novelty variety.

It won’t replace your main TV, or a high-end hi-fi, but it works well as a second, third or fourth screen around the house, or makes an exceptional gift for the child (or man-child) who has everything. According to the sales team at Selfridges, Keecker’s are “popular with luxury boat owners”.

It’s not perfect though, and tweaks are needed to the app, especially how it integrates with the projected Android TV interface. We’re also disappointed with the lack of smart-home integration, and while Alexa control is one thing, it seems a shame not to put the onboard cameras to better use, synching to one of the many existing home-security platforms.

According to Keecker an update will soon provide motion and temperature detection, which is great news, and hints at a useful – and not just entertaining – future ahead.

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