updated 03:45 pm EDT, Thu September 27, 2007
iRobot Looj, ConnectR
Roomba maker iRobot has introduced two new machines, the Looj and the ConnectR. The Looj is actually a gutter-cleaning robot, and somewhat resembles a belt sander; its narrow dimensions lets it track through the likes of roof gutters, using an auger to sweep out leaves, dirt and other potential obstructions. The robot can only clean one stretch of gutter at a time, finishing 60 feet in about 10 minutes, but is controllable with a wireless remote that doubles as a handle. The Looj is being sold today for $100.
A forthcoming machine is the ConnectR, a telepresence robot that lets people interact with friends and family -- or intruders -- via the Internet. The ConnectR is linked to a home Wi-Fi connection, and offers a remote client the ability to receive sound and video, while broadcasting audio in return. More importantly, users can move the robot around their home, driving with a mouse, keyboard or joystick. A low battery warning triggers the robot's return to its charging station, where it plugs in automatically. The ConnectR should be available to members of a pilot program later this year, at a cost of $199; a general release is expected in 2008, for a price under $500.