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I travel a lot so the concept of a sub $500 telepresence robot that lets me talk to and see my wife and kids from virtually wherever I am has some appeal. Others may find iRobot’s first foray into this nascent robot market a bit unsettling. The new ConnectR, which looks like a souped up Roomba, but is actually built on the company’s Create robot kit platform, can via remote control, roll off its charging base, navigate the home, find family members and let you engage in face-to-foot (well, you can point the camera up to the face) conversation. The robot was announced here at Digital Life along with iRobot’s new Looj gutter-cleaning robot.
Having it roll around underfoot may not be everyone’s idea of how to remain connected, but like other iRobot creations, ConnectR does include edge detection, so you can place it closer to eye-level on a table and, well, interact.
Looks wise, the ConnectR is one slick, round puppy. The top offers smooth, shiny red top with a rotating camera eye, speaker and microphone, small LED display and keypad. There’s also the familiar Roomba-style-bumper on the front to help ConnectR navigate around obstacles. Unlike iRobot’s other robots, ConectR is remote-controlled via a Web based app that you can download from the iRobot Web site and use it to control the bot from any Web-connected PC.
Don’t write that $500 check just yet. ConnectR is a good six months away from commercial availability. Today, however, you can sign up to be among a chosen few to get beta versions for just $199. The catch? You have to report back all your findings to iRobot.
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