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May 14, 2011

iRobot to sell AVA the Android-based robot (Replacing what blogger.com has not restored)



iRobot hopes someday soon a robot waiter will deliver your food--and it might well use an Android tablet to see, hear, speak, and think. Today there are two general robot types that are sustainable businesses: high-end, expensive ones for defusing bombs in Afghanistan or monitoring radiation in Japan, and low-end ones for vacuuming. Angle wants an intermediate category and believes tablets will enable that market to develop.

AVA grafts a tablet onto a mobile robot body that can navigate floors. An Android-powered Motorola Xoom tablet was not just the brains of the operation, but the senses and face as well.

The tablet is the head
* camera and microphone for visual input
* a screen and speakers to let people interact with the robot



It sits on top of a stalk and a wider base with wheels to move. The robot can move up to 2 meters per second, avoiding obstacles--not just fixed ones, but moving ones such as a person jumping in the way



iRobot showed an AVA robot with an iPad at CES in January, but Android is a better match because of abilities such as voice and video chat, Angle said.

"We are tablet-agnostic. We'll support both [ipad and android tablets]"

The initial model will be aimed at developers. Angle believes early models could be useful within a business for telepresence--pestering people who are ignoring their mobile phones, for example, or being a real-world avatar in a meeting.

"Once you get the price down, you can put it into homes," he said. "You could have virtual visits from doctors and nurses."

iRobot plans to sell a developer version this year and a business version next year.

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