iRobot CEO: Forget 'The Jetsons'

Chief executive Colin Angle offers a vision for the robot home contrary to the one you might have looked forward to as a kid. Photos: iRobot phones home, cleans gutters

NEW YORK--iRobot would rather people forget their 1960s futuristic robotic home fantasies and appreciate practical robots that work.

The iRobot home is certainly not The Jetsons cartoon home from what company Chief Executive Colin Angle presented on Thursday at DigitalLife 2007.

"I'm asking everyone today to say goodbye to The Jetsons, goodbye to Hollywood robots...That's as likely as us going to live in bubble homes above the ground...And welcome perhaps a little boring looking, but fantastically capable robots," said Angle.

Angle took the audience through the entire lineup of iRobot's consumer robot line including , the Scooba , the DirtDog shop-vac robot and the Vero pool-cleaning robot.

He then unveiled and demonstrated two new robots for the home, . While the Looj does deal with the outdoors, it's not the that people had speculated iRobot might offer.

Instead, the Looj is a remote-control gutter-cleaning robot that uses an auger to break up debris, paddles attached to the auger to fling the debris out of the gutter and a small brush for sweeping. It costs $99 and is available now from the iRobot Web site, with a rollout to stores in the coming weeks, according to Angle.

The second robot, the ConnectR, is a communication robot that offers two-way audio, a Webcam and the ability to move around a room. It connects to a local wireless network and can be controlled from anywhere through a Web-based application. The ConnectR will be available next year.

"I'm guilty personally of making very cool but impractical walking robots for years before I realized this is the point. If we want to change the world, we have to create robots that perform and deliver practical results. There's this tension of cool versus practical," he said.

Despite the ConnectR price tag of about $499, Angle insisted the iRobot home is not for the privileged few. The company is offering the ConnectR at a discounted price of $199 in exchange for feedback. While anyone can apply for the program, iRobot is only offering the deal to a limited number of people.

"The robot home done well is going to give you more control and opportunity in your life. The iRobot home is absolutely not the sole domain of the tech elite, the digerati, the tech gadget guys," he said.

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About the author

In a software-driven world, it's easy to forget about the nuts and bolts. Whether it's cars, robots, personal gadgetry or industrial machines, Candace Lombardi examines the moving parts that keep our world rotating. A journalist who divides her time between the United States and the United Kingdom, Lombardi has written about technology for the sites of The New York Times, CNET, USA Today, MSN, ZDNet, Silicon.com, and GameSpot. She is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not a current employee of CNET.

 

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