Keep track of kids, elderly parents, or even an empty house with this WiFi-enabled bot. Control via an application that's intuitive to set up for those with some tech savvy. We love that this bot can operate on all kinds of surfaces.
Runs on the noisy side, which may distract from its purpose.
A quality bot that is also mindful of your privacy. Customers note this product is plug and play, and operates almost immediately. Tracks motion for up to a week. Noted for its smooth resolution.
Could pair better with applications such as Alexa.
Ideal for those with strong internet connectivity and will perform as expected with the possibility of exceeding your monitoring expectations. Functions great on carpet and can connect via your car as well. Major plus – it can dock itself.
Works best within your internet range, as most devices would.
A rolling robotic monitor that's easy to control remotely with the Family Robot app. Produces video and images with nice clarity. Has a power indicator so you know when it's due to be recharged. Comes at a mid-range price.
Doesn't detect motion or have night vision. Can get hung up on thick-piled carpet.
This device can rotate nearly 360-degrees, surveying every nook and cranny of its environment. Smaller than other products and notably good for watching over pets while away. One of the better night vision monitoring devices available.
Not entirely WiFi compatible, and may require a LAN connection.
We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
Is it a toy, or is it a recording device? Monitoring robots have advanced considerably over the past few years to the point where they are a full-fledged and inexpensive security solution. Whether you want to keep an eye on children, pets, elderly parents, or even just an empty house when you’re at work or away, a monitoring robot has you covered with video and audio that you can control through a computer or smartphone.
These robots range from simple monitoring devices to feature-packed security tools that can be used in a variety of ways. This guide will help you to unravel this niche consumer category, with a detailed examination of some of the features and other considerations that you will need to address when shopping for a monitoring robot.
We also share some of our favorite monitoring robots and offer insight into what you should expect to pay for one.
A robot that can move can often monitor a larger area, but it might also be more difficult to use and keep powered up. If the robot is mobile, be sure that it can operate on multiple surfaces. Something like four-wheel drive can really help, particularly if you have carpeting or other difficult floor surfaces.
Like pretty much everything else these days, monitoring robots can be largely controlled through an app on your smartphone (or computer, in some cases). When shopping for a monitoring robot, be sure that its app will work with your phone. The majority work with iOS and Android, although you should verify that it will also work with whatever version of either that you are using.
Also, know what the app can do. Some offer simple controls, while others are feature-rich and offer a variety of advanced features, such as bookmarking and facial recognition.
App-controlled and versatile
The AppBot Riley can be controlled via app to monitor children, pets, elderly parents, or even an empty house. The robot itself is mobile and can handle a variety of surfaces, from hard floors to carpeting.
Stationary robots usually are wired for power, but mobile robots don’t really have this option. Mobiles generally run on rechargeable batteries and ship with a docking station to keep the batteries charged up. Some robots require you to charge them by hand, while others have the ability to autodock when their batteries are running low.
If you are buying a mobile, it should ship with the dock. You should also find out how long it takes to charge the robot, and when charged, how long the charge will last before the robot has to return to the dock. Also, will the robot still operate when it is sitting in the dock? The best options here will allow for 360º of monitoring even while being charged.
For some of these, you’d probably look at them and think, “Yup, monitoring robot.” Others really do more resemble (and function as) remote control toys. If you would rather not broadcast the fact that you are keeping an eye on your house, go with one of the latter.
Some robots have an automatic stand-up feature, where they are able to easily right themselves if they topple over.
Some monitoring robots allow you to view what it is monitoring in 3-D, so long as you have a pair of VR glasses.
While not standard yet, some monitoring robots offer compatibility with the Amazon Alexa Echo Dot or Google Assistant.
The majority of these robots feature two-way audio, allowing you to both hear and talk to your child, pet, burglar, etc. Two-way audio can often work as an intercom (one person talks at a time) or as a hands-free way to have a conversation through the robot.
The audio should be of high enough quality to clearly hear. Some robots feature anti-noise filters, which can really help with sound quality.
As the visual aspect of these is pretty much the primary reason for buying one, pay special attention to the video and still-image capabilities of any monitoring robot you are considering.
For video, the standard here is 720p HD, while some robots can hit 1,080p HD. Know how the video is stored and what sort of advanced features you have with it (zoom? Wide-angle lens? Auto-cruise mode?). The robot should have a full range of motion, usually 360º with a tilt of 112º.
If still images are important to you, know how many megapixels the robot’s camera is. These usually range from 1.3MP up to 5MP.
The majority of these work over WiFi, with 2.4GHz being standard. Some — particularly stationary robots — also give you the option of using Ethernet to plug directly into your LAN.
Know the number of accounts the robot’s feed can be shared with, in case more than one person will be monitoring the robot’s feed. Some of these allow for a number of accounts. Also, consider whether these other accounts can control the robot or just monitor it.
These are some of the more common advanced features that you will find:
Motion detection. Some robots can both detect when something moves and alert you to this fact. Some also have the ability to track motion.
Night vision. The ability to “see in the dark” using IR is pretty standard in these monitoring robots. Know how clear the IR image is and how far the camera is able to “see” using night vision.
Monitoring robot prices range from a low of $30 up to $200 or more. The majority of these can usually be found grouped on the low end ($30 to $40) or higher end ($100 to $150).
You will pay up here primarily for advanced features, such as facial recognition, a higher-quality build, and more storage capabilities. Other top-end features include a richer alerts system and a finer control of the robot from a distance.
Verify that the manufacturer is actively updating any app that ships with your robot.
Bookmarking allows you to select a set number of locations that you want to frequently scan, so you can easily and quickly check them all.
While you may need to pay extra for it, cloud storage options usually save data in a loop, which provides you with a limitless secure storage option.
If you wish to purchase multiple monitoring robots (say, for different floors of your house), go with one that has an app that can manage multiple units.
Some robots designed specifically to work with children may have the capability of responding when a child touches it.
If you plan to use your robot to monitor children or pets at night, be sure that the infrared LED used in it is a soft, unobtrusive light.
For the greatest networking flexibility, choose a robot that can be networked either wirelessly (such as through WiFi) or through a wired connection (e.g., Ethernet).
If you are shooting for a subtle monitoring device, check that the robot isn’t overly noisy. A robot that loudly whirs and clatters around is not a subtle robot.
In addition to the monitoring robots listed above, we wanted to highlight a couple of others that we really liked. The SHome 360º WiFi Security Camera System features 1,080p HD, motion detection, and video encryption for privacy. We also love how you can tap a point on the screen and the camera will focus in on it. The Hubble Hugo Smart Robot Monitor also offers 1,080p HD. This Alexa-capable option stands out for its facial recognition and a privacy “eyelid” that can be closed via the app.
Q. What video storage options do these have?
A. This will largely vary by robot, but some common ways that these robots store video include:
Built-in storage (some form of integrated memory)
An SD card. Does it ship with a card? What capacity card can you use with the robot?
Cloud storage. Some manufacturers provide this option, although you will generally need to pay a monthly fee for it.
Recording and storing video and images directly on your smartphone.
Q. How does autodocking work?
A. Autodocking allows mobile robots to automatically link with their charging docks. Depending on the robot, this can be accomplished in a number of ways. Sometimes the robot will automatically return to the dock when its battery runs low. Others require the user’s help, either through the simple push of a button on the app or by maneuvering the robot to within a set distance from the dock, at which point the robot will autodock.
Q. What are some of the advantages of a mobile robot?
A. Monitoring robots are available as either stationary units or as mobile units that have the ability to move about your house. A mobile unit’s primary advantage is coverage: you can monitor a much larger area with a robot that can move about. Mobile units often have the ability to track motion from room to room, and some can autodock to recharge their batteries.
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