Friday, January 12, 2007

CES Report: A Roomba for Robot Hackers!

The Mobi team and I have just returned from a hugely successful stint at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Overall, I'd have to say that CES has now grown to the point of absurdity, far beyond the capacity of the conference centers, and even the city to manage. At one point, it actually took us almost two hours to get out of the trade show parking lot due to the gridlock. Cabs weren't an option as the lines were over two hours long, and the silly little monorail could only transport 50 people at a time when more than 150,000 of us geeks were trying to arrive and depart from the show. It would have been laughable if it wasn't so painful.

It ended up being faster to just walk the several mile round trip to the hotel and back. Nonetheless, we endured the orgy of large screen television, mobile technology and jimcrackery that now fills the convention centers beyond capacity, spilling over into all the nearby hotel suites.

I fondly remember a day when there were two more manageable shows, Comdex for the computer stuff, and CES for electronic widgitry and televisions. Well with the demise of Comdex, CES subsumed all, and has acquired a ponderous bulk that must eventually suffocate it. Nobody I knew at the show enjoyed it, and would have avoided the now massive inconvenience of the venue if it weren't for the show's unique importance to the industry.

So with all that said, my normal instinct would be to suggest that fringe products (and even some core ones) should get their own individual themed trade shows to make the whole event more manageable. So it is very unusual for me to say something like "...boy am I glad they've added this new ______ widget..!" But with this one, I couldn't resist.

It turned out that the iRobot booth was about 150 feet from the MobiTV booth, and I had a great time catching up with my old MIT buddies who run the company. I was very pleased to note that they had just won an award for the release of the iRobot Create programmable robotics platform for students and hobbyists.

iRobot Create

Based on the same platform as their famous Roomba vacuum cleaner, it stands alone as probably the most polished and refined robotics kit on the market, having endured several generations of industrial design with hundreds of thousands of units scrubbing floors across the world for the past few years.

Rather than tell you about, just look at a few of the early hobby efforts, and your next stop will be the iRobot web page where you can buy a few for the kids in your life, and even find curriculum materials (and educational discounts) for the teachers in your life. My inner child is certainly clamoring for a couple.

Here are some highlights of a few of the early projects.

The RoboMaid

Fridge robot
The Fridge-mate

Hamster bot
And my favorite, the bionic hamster.

Here is an excellent review of the kit from Robot Magazine, and here are links to my earlier posts on iRobot: Making Money Making Robots, and A Great Hackable Robot: Roomba from iRobot.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Looks great! I want one of each! Phil