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IRobot

Roomba maker launches programmable robot for hobbyists, students

Thursday, January 11, 2007 by: Ben Kage
Tags: iRobot, robotics, health news


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(NewsTarget) The robot-maker iRobot, perhaps best known for its Roomba autonomous vacuum, is giving students and hobbyists the chance to order around their own robots with the programmable "Create."

The Create is based on the aforementioned Roomba -- and its floor-mopping cousin Scooba -- and thus comes equipped with the wheels, motors and proximity sensors that keep the cleaner bot from getting stuck in corners or careening down stairs. Absent, though, are the brushes and fluid tanks used for cleaning, which leaves room for amateur robot-makers to attach arms, cameras or anything else they can imagine. While iRobot plans to sell attachments for the Create, the company expects most users will build their own add-ons.

"This isn't a toy or a plug-and-chug thing," said iRobot co-founder Helen Grenier. "It is a programmable robot for students and robot enthusiasts."

The Create is set to ship with a $129.99 price tag, and a command module with an 8-bit processor will be available separately for $59.99, according to iRobot product manager John Billington.

Even prior to its official release, iRobot engineers and university students have put the Create through its paces. Some students from the University of California, Davis have programmed their Create to pickup socks, and another Create has been programmed to open the fridge and fetch beverages. One group even found a way to turn their Create into a vehicle, albeit only for rodents. Their robot is attached to a plastic hamster ball, and when a rodent moves inside the ball, it sends navigation commands to the Create.

Grenier said of the rodent-controlled robot, "I think it was particularly creative in an ironic way."

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