NOMI is a cute little on-the-dash robot, which was unveiled in the US last month in an episode of “60 Minutes.”
NOMI is a digital assistant for the car in the form of a round robot that moves to face you when you speak. It flashes its “eyes” as it talks and delivers navigation and calls up your music. Plus it offers some unusual features.
The robot is available in China through NIO, a new maker of electric vehicles, which is sometimes compared with Tesla. For our purposes, it may provide a glimpse of the future of in-car infotainment.
NOMI can snap a selfie of the car’s occupants on command and then display the photo on the car radio screen. You can command it to adjust cabin temperature.
It also senses when you are approaching the car and sets the seat and steering wheel positions.
But you have to see it to understand the “emotional engagement” NOMI achieves as it winks, smiles and shows a thumbs up, as noted by Strategy Analytics analyst Roger Lanctot. He calls NOMI a “radical departure” from the ‘me too’ products now being offered in the US.
Lanctot says, “NOMI charms with its cleverness.” He is impressed with its ability to hold the driver’s attention without becoming a distraction. This has become the holy grail for car makers as they try to deliver warnings like “you seem to be getting drowsy” without being intrusive or, conversely being ignored. An LED light on the dash is easily ignored and a voice warning is unwelcome by many drivers.But engaging the driver with entertaining interaction may solve the problem.
NOMI-like robots could solve another pain point for car makers. There’s so much technology in new cars that consumers don’t fully use the car’s features and don’t have the patience to learn them. NOMI has the ability to encourage drivers to use more of their car functions, says Lanctot.
Comparing NOMI to CarPlay or Android Auto, he told us, “You won’t be accessing HVAC controls from Android Auto or CarPlay.”
Despite CEoutlook’s inquiry, a NIO spokeswoman deflected when it came to naming what future capabilities NOMI might offer. Lanctot speculated it might include gesture control and driver monitoring like gaze tracking, but that is only his guess.
“The point is – NOMI is a radical departure coming from one of the most competitive and definitely the largest automotive market in the world. This is the kind of thinking that results when you are trying to stand out in a crowded field,” Lanctot said.
NOMI’s maker NIO is one of about 100 new EV makers in China as the Chinese government is encouraging the growth of electric vehicles by providing a $10K subsidy to EV buyers. NIO says it looks to build up its Chinese business before coming to the US or other countries. But NIO has a US headquarters in San Jose, CA.
China already produces half of the 1 million EVs sold globally.