Facebook Patents Self-Balancing Robot, And It's Anyone's Best Guess Why

Yesterday, Facebook filed a patent for "a self-balancing robot that transitions from a three-wheeled mode to a two-wheeled self-balancing mode" with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Facebook isn't typically thought of a as a hardware company, and the details on what this is intended to do are left vague.

Illustration: United States Patent and Trademark Office

The included illustrations depict several configurations, but the core functionality is that bulbous thing at the end of its multi-jointed arm, which the patent refers to as "the head unit". The unit is designed to support a display, camera, microphones and a speaker. Perhaps it has VR applications, but the on-board tech seems geared towards a telepresence play from the Zuckerberg empire.

The other main feature, of course, is that it can stand up on two wheels so that it "can be tall with a relatively small footprint".

Illustration: United States Patent and Trademark Office

The patent also notes that "in some embodiments, the body can be configured with a storage region or a cargo support to carry items when the robot is in a three-wheeled mode", which brings to mind personal delivery applications as well as butler bots such as Piaggio's Gita robot.

Of course, this is only a patent filing and Zuckerberg may never build fleets of these Segway-looking bots. Still, with Facebook's overwhelming reach online, there's something a little unnerving about watching it extend into the physical world.

Read the full patent here.

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