iRobot Remembers That Robots Are Expensive, Gives Us a Break With More Affordable Roomba i3

iRobot has released several new robots over the last few years, including the i7 and s9 vacuums. Both of these models are very fancy and very capable, packed with innovative and useful features that we’ve been impressed by. They’re both also quite expensive—with dirt docks included, you’re looking at US $800 for the i7+, and a whopping $1,100 for the s9+. You can knock a couple hundred bucks off of those prices if you don’t want the docks, but still, these vacuums are absolutely luxury items. If you just want something that’ll do some vacuuming so that you don’t have to, iRobot has recently announced a new Roomba option. The Roomba i3 is iRobot’s new low to midrange vacuum, starting at $400. It’s not nearly as smart as the i7 or the s9, but it can navigate (sort of) and make maps (sort of) and do some basic smart home integration. Continue reading iRobot Remembers That Robots Are Expensive, Gives Us a Break With More Affordable Roomba i3

iRobot Announces Major Software Update, Shift From Pure Autonomy to Human-Robot Collaboration

Since the release of the very first Roomba in 2002, iRobot’s long-term goal has been to deliver cleaner floors in a way that’s effortless and invisible. Which sounds pretty great, right? And arguably, iRobot has managed to do exactly this, with their most recent generation of robot vacuums that make their own maps and empty their own dustbins. For those of us who trust our robots, this is awesome, but iRobot has gradually been realizing that many Roomba users either don’t want this level of autonomy, or aren’t ready for it. Today, iRobot is announcing a major new update to its app that represents a significant shift of its overall approach to home robot autonomy. Humans are being brought back into the loop through software that tries to learn when, where, and how you clean so that your Roomba can adapt itself to your life rather than the other way Continue reading iRobot Announces Major Software Update, Shift From Pure Autonomy to Human-Robot Collaboration

iRobot’s New Education Robot Makes Learning to Code a Little More Affordable

iRobot has been on a major push into education robots recently. They acquired Root Robotics in 2019, and earlier this year, launched an online simulator and associated curriculum designed to work in tandem with physical Root robots. The original Root was intended to be a classroom robot, with one of its key features being the ability to stick to (and operate on) magnetic virtual surfaces, like whiteboards. And as a classroom robot, at $200, it’s relatively affordable, if you can buy one or two and have groups of kids share them. For kids who are more focused on learning at home, though, $200 is a lot for a robot that doesn’t even keep your floors clean. And as nice as it is to have a free simulator, any kid will tell you that it’s way cooler to have a real robot to mess around with. Today, iRobot is announcing a Continue reading iRobot’s New Education Robot Makes Learning to Code a Little More Affordable

Fun Activity Sheets Introduce Kids to the World of Robots

Robots! Robots! Robots! This collection of fun activity sheets for kids is a perfect introduction to the amazing world of robots. The activities are meant to be intuitive and clear, with little direction needed so that it’s easy for most kids to do the work independently. We think these activities can be enjoyed by kids age 6 to 12, though older kids (and adults!) may want to explore some of them, too. The sheets can be printed out or done on a computer or tablet. Some activities require that kids use IEEE Spectrum’s Robots Guide to learn more about some of the robots; other activities, however, don’t require access to the site. ⇒ Get the activity sheets here! This material was created by Spectrum and is free. If you’d like to support this project, please consider making a donation through the IEEE Foundation. We’re regularly updating the Robots Guide, and hope to keep improving the activity Continue reading Fun Activity Sheets Introduce Kids to the World of Robots

Ex-Googler’s Startup Comes Out of Stealth With Beautifully Simple, Clever Robot Design

Over the last 10 years, the PR2 has helped roboticists make an enormous amount of progress in mobile manipulation over a relatively short time. I mean, it’s been a decade already, but still—robots are hard, and giving a bunch of smart people access to a capable platform where they didn’t have to worry about hardware and could instead focus on doing interesting and useful things helped to establish a precedent for robotics research going forward. Unfortunately, not everyone can afford an enormous US $400,000 robot, and even if they could, PR2s are getting very close to the end of their lives. There are other mobile manipulators out there taking the place of the PR2, but so far, size and cost have largely restricted them to research labs. Lots of good research is being done, but it’s getting to the point where folks want to take the next step: making mobile Continue reading Ex-Googler’s Startup Comes Out of Stealth With Beautifully Simple, Clever Robot Design

How Roboticists (and Robots) Have Been Working from Home

A few weeks ago, we asked folks on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to share photos and videos showing how they’ve been adapting to the closures of research labs, classrooms, and businesses by taking their robots home with them to continue their work as best they can. We got dozens of responses (more than we could possibly include in just one post!), but here are 15 that we thought were particularly creative or amusing. And if any of these pictures and videos inspire you to share your own story, please email us (automaton@ieee.org) with a picture or video and a brief description about how you and your robot from work have been making things happen in your home instead.

Meet Moxie, a Social Robot That Helps Kids With Social-Emotional Learning

The first generation of social home robots (like the first generation of many other new applications of technology) was not particularly successful. A series of high valuations followed by mediocre sales and reviews leading to several company shutdowns has made it much more challenging to develop in this space. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, if we’re honest—it’s become clear that social home robots are difficult to get right, and any company that wants to make one at this point needs to have both the technical capability and (more importantly) a long-term business case that’s more comprehensive than just making a robot into a “part of the family” or a “best friend.” Today, a social robotics startup called Embodied is launching a new robot called Moxie (no relation to this or this), a social companion for children aged 6ish to 9ish. According to Embodied, Moxie is “designed to help promote social, Continue reading Meet Moxie, a Social Robot That Helps Kids With Social-Emotional Learning

Roombot Swarm Creates On-Demand Mobile Furniture

For the last decade-ish, EPFL’s Roombots have been modularizing their way towards becoming the only piece of furniture you’ll ever need. These little squarish roundish robotics modules, which can move around and latch onto each other, can collaboratively form chairs, tables, or whatever else you need or want. The idea is that you’d invest in a pile of Roombots, the pile size being proportional to the number of people and animals in your house, and then whatever bits of furniture you desire would be dynamically created (and then “destroyed”) through the intelligent and autonomous cooperation Roombots pile on an as-needed basis. Roombots are a very compelling idea, especially for those of us who have small apartments. Like, I have a dining room table and four chairs. If I want to have more than a couple people over for dinner, they’d better bring their own chairs, because I don’t have anywhere Continue reading Roombot Swarm Creates On-Demand Mobile Furniture

iRobot Launches Robot Simulator, Free Online Curriculum for Robotics Education

About a year ago, iRobot acquired Root Robotics to help them with a major push for developing STEM education. It wasn’t just Root’s educational robot itself, but also their platform, which included software and lessons for helping kids learn how to code. Today, as part of the National Robotics Week in the United States that almost everyone seems to have forgotten about, iRobot is announcing iRobot Education—a combination of an online robot simulator along with lessons and activities that your kids (or you yourself) can use completely for free.

Build a Rover, Send It to the Moon, Sell the Movie Rights: 30 Years of iRobot

This article was originally published on LinkedIn. The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not represent positions of IEEE Spectrum or the IEEE. Build a rover, send it to the Moon, sell the movie rights. That was our first business model at iRobot. Way back in 1990. We thought it would be how we’d first change the world. It’s ironic, of course, that through that model, changing the world meant sending a robot to another one. Sadly, that business model failed. And it wouldn’t be our last failed business model. Not by a long shot. Photo: iRobot Why? Because changing the world through robots, it turns out, is no easy task. Perhaps the biggest challenge back when we started in 1990 was that there existed no rule book on how to do it. There weren’t many robots, let alone robot companies, let alone any kind of robot industry. Continue reading Build a Rover, Send It to the Moon, Sell the Movie Rights: 30 Years of iRobot