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A Robot That Lets You be Virtually There

Techstination feature for Friday, October 5, 2007

A robot that lets you be virtually there. Bloomberg Boot Camp, a report on today's technology. It's a company that has built robots for the military to send into caves into Afghanistan. Now comes a new mission…negotiating through obstacles into the rooms of teenagers. iRobot, maker of the Roomba robotic vacuums, calls it the ConnectR. About the size of a Roomba…it includes a camera, speaker and microphone and a connection to a wireless home network….so it can be controlled from anywhere you have an Internet connection…to create a virtual presence. CEO Colin Angle…

"We wanted to create something to allow communication to be more interactive. Create a robot that could be you, so that if you're with the robot you can talk to it as if it is the remote person. This is particularly interesting, I think, for parents who are traveling and have children back at home."

iRobot plans to sell the ConnectR virtual visiting robot for about five hundred dollars. But buyers willing to be part of a pilot program to test the devices, can sign up on the Web for a chance to buy one for about 200. How big might the market be?

"It's a new type of communication. It gives you the opportunity to call a place and talk to whoever is there rather than calling a person."

iRobot has a second new device on the market…a 99 dollar gutter cleaning device called Looj. Bloomberg Boot Camp, I'm Fred Fishkin.