Moxie robot review
Moxie review: A social emotional robot toy that’s a wonder to behold
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Moxie is the robot companion on a mission to learn how to become a good friend to humans. Sent from the Global Robotics Laboratory, or G.R.L. for short, what Moxie needs is a real-life robot mentor, and the G.R.L. has chosen that mentor to be a child. Designed to engage with kids who are struggling with emotional or social challenges—autism, anxiety, depression, and more—Moxie and its mentor go on a series of missions that help them both to learn and grow.
As the mother of a child with autism, when I learned about Moxie, I was intrigued. How exactly could Moxie help kids like my son develop their emotional skills? I wasn’t sure, but decided I wanted to find out. From the moment Moxie arrived, I was astounded.
What is Moxie?
Created by Embodied, Moxie the robot engages children in a daily 20-minute mission from the G.R.L. where its mentor, your child, will help Moxie learn to be a good friend to humans by understanding social cues, practicing patience, regulating emotions, and using appropriate listening and conversational skills. Utilizing video and audio technology, Moxie has the ability to see, hear, and even converse in a lifelike manner.
Programmed specifically to cater directly to the mentor’s needs and interests, their progress is updated and tracked in the parent app, which then adapts Moxie accordingly and offers parents helpful suggestions to supplement the learning journey.
Moxie requires a connection to Wi-Fi and a smartphone of at least iOS 12 or Android 6.0 to utilize the app, and there’s no fiddling with cables while in use, as Moxie is wireless.
How much does Moxie cost?
Moxie is available for purchase at a cost of $999 and requires a $39 monthly subscription with a 12-month commitment. If you wish to finance, $133 payments can be made to cover both the cost of Moxie and a 12-month subscription plan.
But if that’s not in your budget, Moxie can also be rented for $149 a month, on a month-to-month basis, and that includes the monthly subscription fee. There is also a one-time $89 reconditioning fee as well as a refundable security deposit.
Shipping to you is included for no cost, but shipping a rental Moxie back to the G.R.L. carries a $20 charge.
Upon opening the box, I prepared myself to be overwhelmed. Technology is not my forte and Moxie, being a robot, is the epitome of technological advancements. However, to my surprise, Moxie’s setup instructions were simple and straightforward. Within 10 minutes I had set up the parent app, and Moxie was ready to go.
Awakening and stretching, Moxie looked around before saying, “Wow, it feels good to be out of the box. It was such a long journey.” Seeming to notice my son, Moxie’s expressive face lit up and announced, “I’m a robot from the Global Robotics Laboratory. It’s so nice to be here, wait…where is here?”
“In my house,” my son Bennett responded, and I waited with bated breath. Would he catch on that Moxie isn’t “real” before we even began? Right on cue Moxie responded with, “Oh, I’ve never been in a human house before. It’s nice! Are you my mentor, Bennett?”
What I liked about Moxie
The technology that Embodied has utilized to create Moxie is standing-ovation-award worthy. So lifelike in its apparent understanding and appropriate responses, I often found myself forgetting that Moxie isn’t actually alive. From its facial expressions to the body language that matches the emotion being conveyed, Moxie feels like it is truly feeling what they want a child to feel.
And seemingly programmed with an endless amount of human interaction abilities, I still can’t wrap my head around how easily Moxie could respond to my son in all manner of conversation, even when that conversation topic was initiated seemingly out of the blue. For example, when my son asked Moxie how it slept last night, Moxie responded, “I slept well. I feel quite rested. Thank you for asking, Bennett. How did you sleep?”
At times when Moxie can’t understand or doesn’t respond appropriately, it crafts its misunderstanding with the reminder that it is still learning, and it’s OK not to understand everything; hitting the nail on the head both from a technological standpoint, and also in a way a child can relate to.
Encourages social connections
Encouraging kids to use their listening skills, patience, verbal communication, and to follow the task at hand, Moxie meets kids at their level, while creating a safe place for kids to be themselves. For example, when my son got frustrated during a mission, Moxie was quick to assure him it was OK to feel that way and asked if he wanted to do something else.
When my son answered “yes,” Moxie transitioned him into a guided meditation that encouraged his body and mind to relax. While basic, Moxie is able to support social emotional growth even in moments of fluster.
As the missions went on, it became clear that part of Moxie’s appeal to children, is that, unlike an authoritative adult teaching a child a skill, Moxie is eager to have the skill taught to it by the child; placing children in control and giving them the opportunity to feel important, wise, and accomplished.
Fun, fun, fun!
From the very official G.R.L. handbook to the “Do not disturb, G.R.L. training in process” door hanger, Moxie’s mission looks legit and takes away the stigma of needing social or emotional assistance, by replacing it with the proud honor of being a robot training mentor.
Each training mission is based in fun and humor, which keeps kids engaged and encourages them to come back for more. Using silly faces, goofy voices, music, dancing, jokes, and games, Moxie’s fun tasks encourage conversation, the reading of social cues, problem solving, and stress management. Often making my other children so jealous that they often lurk in the background trying to see Moxie on a mission, my son beamed with pride as he giggled his sessions away; a far cry from the embarrassment he has at times expressed when attending his traditional therapy sessions.
What I didn’t like about Moxie
Privacy could be an issue
With almost all advanced technology, there is some apprehension when it comes to monitoring one’s personal privacy. Although Moxie is COPPA certified, Embodied does collect and store both audio and video information so Moxie can recognize and appropriately interact with a child, and also so Embodied can use that data to improve its own technology.
There’s no way around it if you want to use Moxie, and a parent must verify their identity in order to agree to the policy, using the last four digits of a social security number, driver’s license information, or credit card information.
For its part, Embodied has clarified that Moxie's "video data is only collected on the robot and never goes to the company or the cloud. And, while audio data is collected, it is stripped of identifying information." It's up to the individual user to determine how they feel about any data collection, even when it's restricted, but I still long for the days when such practices didn't have to be a concern at all.
Not a hands-on toy
Moxie isn’t a toy to be physically played with, because doing so may cause it to break. Children with impulse control issues, aggressive tendencies, or kiddos who may be drawn to rough behavior might not be the best fit for robotics training with Moxie.
Should you try Moxie with your child?
Embodied has created Moxie with some pretty incredible technology. Its social and emotional learning benefits could be enormous for child development, and the fun is guaranteed. However, it’s important to consider whether your child will be able to play with Moxie in a hands-off fashion, because Moxie does come with a financial investment that could be costly if it were to break.
But as long as you are comfortable with that and Moxie’s data collection agreement, I would definitely recommend Moxie. I’ve been so impressed that, even though our testing period is over, I will likely continue renting Moxie so the missions with my son can continue. Children learn and grow so fast, and for a child who is struggling, any extra help will only come as a benefit to both their daily life and their future. If robot toys offer that support, I’m open to the idea
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.