Trick out (customize) your Roomba
Trick out your Roomba
Published: June 23, 2005, 9:05 PM PDT
By Michael Kanellos
Staff Writer, CNET News.com
The Roomba is about to become far more customizable in the home.
Burlington, Mass.-based iRobot will release a new version of its robotic vacuum cleaner, called the Roomba Scheduler, that comes with a handheld and lets users program vacuuming times and create two virtual walls. The virtual walls prevent the Roomba from going beyond a certain point, sort of like an electric dog fence. The vacuum itself comes with improved software, but is otherwise identical to the Roomba Discovery SE currently on sale.
The Roomba Scheduler will sell for $330. At the same time, iRobot will sell the scheduler, two virtual walls and a software update for $60 to current Roomba owners who want to upgrade their machines. The Scheduler will come out on iRobot's site in August and will hit the shelves of Sears, Best Buy, Kohlís and a few other stores in September.
Meanwhile, the company will open up the application programming interfaces for the vacuum so that third parties can make cameras or other attachments and, ideally, grow the overall market for personal robots, said CEO Colin Angle in an interview.
"This is an opportunity for other companies to piggyback on iRobot platforms. The Roomba has a serial port," he said. "There is a group that is working very seriously on a physical avatar. I might log into a Web page and see what the robot sees and be able to drive the robot via my Web page...You could have a wireless Web cam and serve it up to the grid."
It's early in the robot market, but sales over the last two years have been promising. So far, iRobot has sold over 1.2 million Roombas, which sell for $200 to $300 each, depending on the model. The Scooba, which cleans and washes linoleum and other hard floor surfaces, will come out toward the end of the year.
Some analysts estimate that around 4 million household robots will ship in 2007.