When it gets cold out, staying warm usually means either cranking up the heat—and, thus, the heating bill—or piling on the sweaters and straying from the radiator’s immediate vicinity only when absolutely necessary. But your days of dashing between warm spots, or paying extra for the privilege of not, may soon be at an end. A new robot can keep you warm by saving up the heat you’ve already got until you need it.
HAGENT, as the robot is called, isn’t much to look at; it’s just a plain black cube with a couple barely visible wheels peeking out the bottom. But when HAGENT senses warmth—from an oven, a radiator, or any other heat source—it rolls over and soaks up the heat with its internal phase change material, stuff that turns liquid and stores energy when it’s heated up. Once the bot has its thermal fill, it makes its way to wherever you are and emits the stored heat. Its insides re-solidify in the process, so once it’s made your toes suitably toasty, it’s ready to do the whole thing again. In other words, it’s the automated answer to a housecat that soaks up sunlight, then curls up on your lap like an imperious heating pad. Though maybe it’s more like a friendly dog: there’s something sweetly puppy-like about the way it toddles over with the gift of heat in tow.
You can check out a video of HAGENT’s design and goals (above) and watch the prototype in action (below).