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What's Next For iRobot?

Soulskill posted about 2 years ago | from the recruit-dr-noonien-soong dept.

Businesses 88

An anonymous reader writes "Ten years since the debut of the Roomba vacuum cleaner and military PackBot, robots are mainstream but still not in every home. Meanwhile, a new generation of robotics companies is taking off. Where does that leave iRobot, the godfather of the field? With its military business taking a hit from the U.S. defense budget, the 22-year-old public company is looking to reinvent itself with new kinds of robots, including a telepresence machine for doctors and hospitals and, further down the road, inflatable robots that could be cheaper, safer, and more portable than their metallic predecessors. The question is whether these new machines will be successful enough to keep the company growing — and add to its legacy in robotics."

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88 comments

Remind me (0)

NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) | about 2 years ago | (#41317411)

What is Fairchild Semiconductor's stock price these days?

Re:Remind me (1)

snowraver1 (1052510) | about 2 years ago | (#41317455)

$14.52. What does that have to do with anything?

Re:Remind me (5, Funny)

SomeJoel (1061138) | about 2 years ago | (#41317513)

$14.52. What does that have to do with anything?

He was testing your Internet research skills. You win this round.

Re:Remind me (3, Informative)

vlm (69642) | about 2 years ago | (#41317559)

Should have asked about Maxim semiconductor stock price for a real "jeopardy style" research project.
See they bought dallas semiconductor, who sold a whole line of "i-products" back when apple still meant an apple2-gs.
The iButton was like a 256 byte (byte, not kilo or mega or giga byte, just byte) one wire interface storage device. They had a whole herd of one-wire devices. Basically the one wire was really one wire plus ground and it was kind of like sneaking power for I2C off the data bus. Thats a good research question.

Also its a pessimistic outlook... onewire went nowhere and its pretty much gone now. Insinuating that irobot is going the way of the ibutton.

Re:Remind me (2)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about 2 years ago | (#41317639)

The one-wire bus is actually three wires. Ground, power+data, and a seperate power wire. The latter is technically optional, but if you want to get a signal to reliably go more than a few meters you're going to need it. I use one-wire temperature sensors to monitor the temperature throughout my house, a relic of an old computerised heating project that never saw completion.

Re:Remind me (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41318063)

a relic of an old computerised heating project that never saw completion

So you had a bunch of Pentium 4 systems laying around? My P4 laptop kept me warm through cold winter nights.

Re:Remind me (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41318089)

Aww, man. I have to power my devices with an actual complete circuit? Geez. They lied to me.

Sigh.

Re:Remind me (1)

mikech2000 (1230790) | about 2 years ago | (#41319319)

Not bad considering Intel is at 23 and change.

Re:Remind me (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41326801)

Not bad considering Intel is at 23 and change.

You can't just compare the price of shares in different companies and expect it to mean anything. Intel could have twenty three billion times as many shares in issue.

Happy Hump Day from the Golden Girls! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41317413)

Thank you for being a friend
Traveled down the road and back again
Your heart is true, you're a pal and a cosmonaut.

And if you threw a party
Invited everyone you knew
You would see the biggest gift would be from me
And the card attached would say, thank you for being a friend.

AT least get the lyrics right! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41317457)

Thank you for being a friend Traveled down the road and back again Your heart is true, you're a pal and a cosmonaut.

And if you threw a party Invited everyone you knew You would see the biggest gift would be from me And the card attached would say, thank you for being a friend.

...And the card attached would say, thank you for being a fiend.

Roomba sucks (but not in the way I paid for) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41317469)

I have a Roomba vacuum that I paid for and a Scooba given as a gift. Both take more time and effort than using a normal vacuum (or mop) to clean a room and do a poorer job. Neither was cheap and both needed expensive battery replacements within a year of purchase. They should focus on making their existing robots do what they are designed to do before they branch out even further.

Re:Roomba sucks (but not in the way I paid for) (3, Informative)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 2 years ago | (#41317553)

Agreed. I have a roomba that rarely goes out of it's cradle. It's just not smart enough to maneuver around the dozens of obstacles in the basement here. It does OK upstairs were there is more furniture and less 'stuff' - it's great under beds and sofas - but a quiet, smarter Roomba that doesn't choke on Labrador Retriever fuzz would be another sale. I like the idea, just doesn't quite work.....

Re:Roomba sucks (but not in the way I paid for) (3, Interesting)

snowraver1 (1052510) | about 2 years ago | (#41317803)

I have a 550 "Pet edition" Roomba, and it works great. I have a single cat (who admittidly doesn't shed that much compated to most cats). I have to clean out the rollers every once an a while, but it's still better than actually vaccuuming. While it can't get into a few areas (behind the garbage can is a big one) it generally works great. I think it does a better job than me (because I don't take any time to move anything).

The biggest problem I have with it is that when it decides that it is done a room, it tends to hide. It might be under the middle of the bed, or tucked under the sofa in the back corner, but it's rarely in a spot where I don't have to get on my belly to retrieve it.

I named mine Saul after Saul Goodman. Better call Saul!

Re:Roomba sucks (but not in the way I paid for) (3, Interesting)

RelaxedTension (914174) | about 2 years ago | (#41319125)

I have the 570, and love it. I've replaced parts along the way, but it runs at least 3 times a week, every week, and keeps my floors spotless. It runs while I'm out of the house, and I only have to empty it once a week or so. The main work to do is to keep stuff off of my floor so it doesn't get stuck, but that helps keep my place tidy.

It broke a little while back, and while waiting for the part I had to pull out my old vacuum. That was a terrible experience after having a Roomba for a couple of years now. Btw, your issue of never it finishing out in the open, while exactly true, is not a problem if you have the remote for it. Took me a few times of crawling under the bed to realize that.

Re:Roomba sucks (but not in the way I paid for) (1)

FirstNoel (113932) | about 2 years ago | (#41322571)

Same here. Have the Pet one for the basement/rec-room/man-cave/whatever. Runs twice a week. Only issues I've had are when he wonders into the laundry room or closet and can't get back out. Some times he may try to crawl under the couch and get stuck, or if my 5 year old leaves some toys out he may try to pull them in.

Over all, great investment for me. Keeps the cat/dog hair in check. And I don't have to lug the big vacuum downstairs and go through that hassle.. I like him.

He does need maintenance once in a while, but that's more fun than vacuuming.

Re:Roomba sucks (but not in the way I paid for) (1)

cayenne8 (626475) | about 2 years ago | (#41319909)

If they put their efforts into perfecting "fuckbots"....where you could custom order basically and android woman....VERY realistic, would obey you, could be upgraded without you losing half your fiscal worth, and not talk back to you...etc, they'd be the richest company in the world.

Of course, the world would soon be absent of humans, since men would ditch chicks...since they'd have the fun and none of the crap you have to put up from them with.....

Re:Roomba sucks (but not in the way I paid for) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41321217)

Nah, the world would still have humans. All the stupid guys who don't take care of their girlfriends would buy said fuckbots and remove themselves from the dating pool. Then all the nicer guys who see a woman as more than a vagina would in high demand. I could go for that. ;p

Re:Roomba sucks (but not in the way I paid for) (1)

cayenne8 (626475) | about 2 years ago | (#41322733)

. Then all the nicer guys who see a woman as more than a vagina would in high demand.

You'd still be out of luck...women generally don't go for the "nice guy" types. If you come in a too nice of a guy, you end up in the friend zone, and you're not gonna get laid.

Re:Roomba sucks (but not in the way I paid for) (1)

Neil Boekend (1854906) | about 2 years ago | (#41321223)

My roomba 564 vacuums daily. This is quite a change from weekly or biweekly which I used to do. The house is so much cleaner now.
I have a dog, though not a labrador (a crosbreed, not unlike a Dutsch sheperd dog). She doesn't shed a tenth of a labrador, so that matters a lot. In the shedding weeks (only a couple of weeks a year) I need to use the high capacity bin and empty it once every two days. Usually the normal bin lasts 4 days or so (unless I have a party. My friends don't make a terrible mess, but more people = more mess)
The roomba cleans well. Not everything is gone in one round, but usually in 2 rounds it's clean For me this is a great improvement over up to two weeks. If I am going to have a party that night I just order it to clean once extra while I go to a shop to get enough beer and snacks.
As for the battery: Mine is a year old and the only time I had trouble with the battery was when the brush module was almost dead. After I replaced that (for free although out of warranty) the roomba had power enough to clean my room 1,5 times (with the same batteries). I assume they are NiMH batteries, but I cant check at the moment.
I love the roomba (in a non-romatic way) and if it dies (and I am content with the life time) I am going to get a new one.

Re:Roomba sucks (but not in the way I paid for) (1)

Urza9814 (883915) | about 2 years ago | (#41324055)

I dunno, my parents have three dogs and a cat (the dogs are a big black lab, a little shelty, and a medium sized long-haired mutt of some sort) and pet hair is exactly why my mom bought and loves the Roomba. She's had two now -- some dirt cheap thing that may be a knockoff brand, I don't remember (which she still has and it still works, but doesn't get used as often) and something along the lines of the 630 I think, though it's also a few years old now. Before buying these things she was vacuuming three or four times a week and the house was still covered in pet hair; now she has the Roomba set on a timer to run every day while she's at work and just empties it when she gets home. Doesn't get everywhere or everything, sure, but she's happy with it at least.

Wouldn't mind having one myself either if I had the money for it....keep the carpet fuzz in my new apartment at bay...although the damn thing would probably choke on it and die in seconds -- even my actual vacuum gets clogged from just my small bedroom once a week...

Re:Roomba sucks (but not in the way I paid for) (1)

crow (16139) | about 2 years ago | (#41317661)

Yup. The Roomba has lots of issues. I think the newer ones at least have a larger dust container, so they don't fill up instantly with dog hair like our did.

Mine had a NiCd battery pack that had a horribly short life span. They should at least use NiMH, if not Li-ion. It should be rated at 1000 cycles to last for three years of daily use.

They could make it a lot smarter. In addition to the exploration algorithm, they should be able to memorize the layout of the walls (possibly with a Wi-Fi web-based API). That would eliminate the need for the infrared "electronic wall" that they use.

Re:Roomba sucks (but not in the way I paid for) (1)

snowraver1 (1052510) | about 2 years ago | (#41317869)

My Roomba has a MiMH battery.

Re:Roomba sucks (but not in the way I paid for) (1)

snowraver1 (1052510) | about 2 years ago | (#41317903)

Bah... that should be NiMH...

Re:Roomba sucks (but not in the way I paid for) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41323745)

I own 4 or 5 Roombas. I love them but the batteries make owning them a losing proposition. I have bought several replacement packs on eBay, then sliced open the sealed Roomba battery modules to replace the cells. Your other option is to spend big $$$ and replace the entire battery module with an iRobot part.

It's also amusing to watch parts fall off (e.g. side brush) and have the Roomba vacuum itself up.

Re:Roomba sucks (but not in the way I paid for) (1)

zwede (1478355) | about 2 years ago | (#41318455)

My Roomba works great, but I'm a minimalist (lots of open space). I've been amazed at the battery life, it still works fine after hundreds of cycles. I have not had to replace anything in the 3 years I've had it.

Re:Roomba sucks (but not in the way I paid for) (1)

tibit (1762298) | about 2 years ago | (#41319699)

A NiCd battery pack is not the problem. The problem is the charge-discharge circuit. If you do charge balancing on both charge and discharge -- and that requires doing individual cell monitoring and shunting -- a NiCd has life quite comparable to NiMH.

Re:Roomba sucks (but not in the way I paid for) (1)

BLACKMIST (208285) | about 2 years ago | (#41320015)

But tibit, they didn't engineer it that way; did they?
They didn't improve the circuit and offer it as a paid or free upgrade. They sold the fancy-looking handle and let us pay for the razors (batteries).
After I was in another $100 in 3 month "disposable" batteries (yes, after trying to load balance at a time when I was traveling out of state regularly..) I was out. I recognized their business model and it isn't in the consumer's interest. It's what schick pioneered; let the customer pay-and-pay-and-pay.

I'd be very interested in another consumer focused brand to unseat them. They pulled an X-10; got the tech folks all into things but then pulled a boneheaded marketing/business strategy.

Would not buy again, to hell with them resurrecting themselves.
I'd rather by from GE/Phillips/Siemens when they have something that's well engineered and supported.

_B

Roomba batteries require maintenance (1)

Medievalist (16032) | about 2 years ago | (#41323521)

You didn't use google to find out that the charge circuit needs to be periodically reset [google.com] , as even iRobot admits [irobot.com] , or the robot will convince itself the battery's dead when it actually isn't?

An expensive mistake, that I also made on my first roomba.

What I really want is a roomba that looks like a trilobite, and a scooba that looks like a snail, and a looj that actually works.

Re:Roomba sucks (but not in the way I paid for) (1)

tibit (1762298) | about 2 years ago | (#41325213)

I know they didn't engineer it that way, but no matter what battery pack they'd have used, it'd end up with the same problem. So blaming it on Ni-Cd ain't it.

Re:Neato XV-11 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41318465)

Get the Neato XV-11 with SLAM and you wont have an issue. the Roomba is just a toy which does one room while the XV-11 can do your whole house.
XV-21 with pets.

Re:Neato XV-11 (1)

Cheech Wizard (698728) | about 2 years ago | (#41319727)

I have to agree. I have one of each. The Neato XV-11 is "smart" and 2 years later I'm still on my first battery. I don't remember the XV-21 from when I bought my XV-11. If I was buying one now I'd get the XV-21. I use it for all the rooms (1 floor) except the master bedroom in which some of the furniture is too low for the Neato to get under.

The Roomba I now only use in my master bedroom. Gone through 2 batteries in 2 years, and *every* time it finishes I have to remove the "brushes" and cut (with small surgical scissors) the hair, carpet fibers and such that collect on the ends. It is *really* a PITA. The only advantage is it's a bit shorter than the Neato so it can get under a few things the Neato can't.

Sounds like they're going to invent.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41317481)

Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm FLAILING TUBE MAN!!

Re:Sounds like they're going to invent.. (3, Funny)

vlm (69642) | about 2 years ago | (#41317573)

Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm FLAILING TUBE MAN!!

Um, AC, I donno how to say it, but that tube... um... its not an arm... I think the robot likes you.

Re:Sounds like they're going to invent.. (1)

SeaFox (739806) | about 2 years ago | (#41320265)

No, it's just curious.
It wishes an exchange of information and is trying to create an ad-hoc network with one of its series of tubes.

They are headed in the right direction... (5, Funny)

Issarlk (1429361) | about 2 years ago | (#41317543)

... with the inflatable robots.

Re:They are headed in the right direction... (3, Funny)

voss (52565) | about 2 years ago | (#41319561)

In the headlines for October 3rd 2017
IROBOT ACQUIRES REALDOLL

"We all knew they were coming...wait! wait! You know what I mean!" - anon

"The day an unemployed iron worker can lay in his Barcalounger with a Fosters in one hand and a channel flicker in the other and f--k Claudia Schiffer for $19.95, it's gonna make crack look like Sanka."- Dennis Miller on Virtual Reality - 6/16/95

Having failed to exterminate humanity twice...it tried a different approach. Well played skynet....well played.

Pest control (2)

Antipater (2053064) | about 2 years ago | (#41317547)

They need to design hunter-killer pest control robots next. Why bother fogging your apartment with deadly pesticides when you can let a few (roach/bedbug/beetle/spider)-hunting bots loose for targeted annihilation?

Yes, I know, "What could possibly go wrong?"

Re:Pest control (3, Funny)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 2 years ago | (#41317721)

They need to design hunter-killer pest control robots next. Why bother fogging your apartment with deadly pesticides when you can let a few (roach/bedbug/beetle/spider)-hunting bots loose for targeted annihilation?

Already have one, works great! [wikipedia.org]

Re:Pest control (3, Funny)

Miamicanes (730264) | about 2 years ago | (#41317995)

I have two. Unfortunately, one of mine likes to catch big palmetto bugs (a gigantic semi-flying roach found in Florida) in her mouth, then runs through her special door into the house, races up the stairs, jumps up onto her daddy's bed, and spits them out to proudly demonstrate her hunting skills and offer her daddy a late night snack, which he inevitably declines...

Re:Pest control (2)

stevenfuzz (2510476) | about 2 years ago | (#41318947)

Our cats are indoors only, and they do the same thing. Any living thing in the house smaller than them is dead or imobilized in about 10 seconds after they see it. If only we could teach them not to leave them on the bed, shoes, bathroom floor... Also, I read something that said that cats do not leave dead animals to impress or offer to their masters, but more of a "Learn to hunt bitch, like this...".

Re:Pest control (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 2 years ago | (#41324017)

Hey, be glad your kittah hasn't developed an affinity for catching baby bunnies at 2 a.m. like mine has.

He doesn't kill then quick, either - no, my sociopathic feline prefers to cripple them, then let them screech themselves to death under the porch outside my bedroom.

Re:Pest control (1)

olau (314197) | about 2 years ago | (#41322617)

Is it using lasers? If not, it doesn't count.

Who Cares (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41317555)

So, we all should be worried about the legacy of a vacuum cleaner company? Many companies come and go. Look at Kodak. It's nearly dead, but no one seems to care.

Re:Who Cares (3, Funny)

MasterOfGoingFaster (922862) | about 2 years ago | (#41318653)

Look at Kodak. It's nearly dead, but no one seems to care.

We film photographers do. Both of us.

Re:Who Cares (1)

tibit (1762298) | about 2 years ago | (#41319755)

What's so special about film? At least for high sensitivity uses, digital pretty much wins. Even PowerShot G1X has less noise at ISO 1600 than the best color film would, AFAIK. Professional DSLRs, I'd think, bury film when it comes to pretty much everything, don't they?

Re:Who Cares (1)

MasterOfGoingFaster (922862) | about 2 years ago | (#41322307)

For small cameras, digital rules. Same with 35mm. Medium format digital cameras cost US$10,000 to $50,000 while film cameras cost far less. But there is no large format digital cameras, and my 4x5 (100mm x 125mm) Sinar is equal to a 200 to 800 megapixel camera if you scan the film. Digital has yet to match 4x5 and is far away from 8x10 film.

I shoot full-frame Nikon digital for color, but nothing comes close to 4x5 film for large prints.

Re:Who Cares (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | about 2 years ago | (#41324315)

For small cameras, digital rules. Same with 35mm. Medium format digital cameras cost US$10,000 to $50,000 while film cameras cost far less. But there is no large format digital cameras, and my 4x5 (100mm x 125mm) Sinar is equal to a 200 to 800 megapixel camera if you scan the film. Digital has yet to match 4x5 and is far away from 8x10 film.

I shoot full-frame Nikon digital for color, but nothing comes close to 4x5 film for large prints.

The problem with medium format and larger film stock is the sensor. Given the sensor has a fixed area of silicon, it costs the same to fabricate, no matter if it's 1MP, 10MP, 100MP - the number of transistors can vary, but the silicon area cannot. It's why dSLRs are often APS-sized sensors (more sensors per wafer == cheaper), why full-frame dSLRs are pricier (less sensors), and medium format digitals are as they are (you can fit maybe 4 or 5 on an old 120mm wafer, of which maybe 0 or 1 might be viable. A 300mm wafer can hold more, so you can get a greater chance of getting a few good ones, but they have to pay for all the bads. The raw cost of that sensor can be a couple of thousand dollars or more.

The larger formats? Forget it - you'd be looking at high end house mortgage pricing.

It's actually easier (and cheaper) ot make a denser smaller sensor than a larger one.

Re:Who Cares (1)

MasterOfGoingFaster (922862) | about 2 years ago | (#41324775)

Exactly. Wafer yield is a huge cost driver.

For those who are unfamiliar with camera terminology, "full frame" refers to a sensor size equal to 135 film (24mm x 36mm) commonly called "35mm". APS-C sensors have an area half that size (or smaller), so you get almost twice the number of sensors per wafer. Another issue is the steppers used in the fabrication process are big enough to make a APS sensor in one shot, but a full-frame sensor requires two overlapping shots (so I'm told), leading to alignment issues and lower yield.

Medium format film ranges from 56mm x 41mm, to 56mm x 224mm - all using 120/220 roll film (60mm wide). Medium format sensors are all over the place, but generally 50% larger than 135 full-frame. The largest medium format sensor I know of is used in the Phase One IQ-180. It is a 80 megapixel (MP) sensor measuring 53.7mm x 40.4mm. No large format sensors (100mm x 125mm) exist in the commercial photography market.

Why does sensor size matter? Photography is highly dependent on the performance of the optical system. For a given print size, a smaller capture device would have to be magnified more than a larger device. Optical flaws become more obvious. This is why film photographers want the largest film that is practical. 135 is portable, while 8x10 cannot be hand held. Those old speed graphics used in the old days were 4x5.

A large format lens are very simple designs relative to modern zooms. Most of mine are only 6 glass elements, while my Nikon zoom has 22 elements. The LF lens is very sharp on large format film, but not as sharp as the Nikon zoom. A 16" x 20" print is only a 4X enlargement for 4x5, but it is a 16x enlargement for full frame 135, and about a 22x enlargement for APS-C. It is very easy for modern sensors to "out-resolve" the lens, which is why pros spend thousands of dollars on each lens. It is not uncommon to see pro lenses price from US$2,000 to $10,000.

Re:Who Cares (1)

tibit (1762298) | about 2 years ago | (#41325195)

I agree. When one talks about large format, film wins. But you can't really hold those in your hand for very long ;) I have a russian 60x60mm ripoff of the Hasselblad and that thing is certainly good in place of a brick in case you needed to bash someone's head in. I think that cameras that are meant to be carryable on a neckstrap (or wriststrap) are a different class from anything big format. I'd think it's a tad unfair to even try to compare a dSLR to anything large format. It's like apples to apple wine ;)

Re:Who Cares (1)

MasterOfGoingFaster (922862) | about 2 years ago | (#41329265)

I'd think it's a tad unfair to even try to compare a dSLR to anything large format. It's like apples to apple wine ;)

You are right - two totally different cameras. However, I was responding to your question:

Professional DSLRs, I'd think, bury film when it comes to pretty much everything, don't they?

And the answer is "not in the case of large format film".

Cameras are just tools to make images and prints. I make large prints, so for me it is not unfair at all. I was using a dSLR for large images, but went to 4x5 film for much sharper images. Google "Clyde Butcher" if you want to see a modern master who creates massive prints.

Re:Who Cares (1)

tibit (1762298) | about 2 years ago | (#41333505)

I've done a few rolls of 60 ISO 60x60mm (start to finish, developing the negative and enlargements myself) and that's sure as heck a different medium. The largest enlargement I could make is approx. A4 paper size, and it looked pretty damn stunning in spite of a very amateurish process and conditions. That was back in elementary school, I haven't touched it for 2 decades since :(

A sex-bot that also vacuums (4, Insightful)

tekrat (242117) | about 2 years ago | (#41317591)

Now, if only it could cook....

Re:A sex-bot that also vacuums (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41317699)

It can probably order takeout at the same level of competence as the model it replaces
 

Re:A sex-bot that also vacuums (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41322377)

I'd settle for laundry.

Build a better Roomba? (1)

grumpyman (849537) | about 2 years ago | (#41317675)

It doesn't work well.

Re:Build a better Roomba? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41317843)

It's called a Neato XV [neatorobotics.com] .

I've owned both. The XV is much more intelligent, cleans more rooms faster, doesn't need a new battery every year, has a better interface, is far more reliable, built is like a tank, and doesn't need battery-hungry "virtual walls."

Re:Build a better Roomba? (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about 2 years ago | (#41318847)

Why does the Neato battery last longer? Is it a more expensive material? If so, is the cost passed on to the consumer? I've had problems with Roomba battery duration also.

I've had 2 Roomba's. They do their job if you keep the brushes etc. clean, but they don't handle the unexpected very well and are relatively slow and noisy, especially on wooden floors.

Re:Build a better Roomba? (1)

tibit (1762298) | about 2 years ago | (#41319769)

The Roomba battery is either subject to a larger discharge current per unit volume, or is not properly managed during both charge and discharge. Usually the latter. There's no technical reason at all to have a battery-powered appliance that won't properly work with one or two dead cells in a battery pack (save for shorter discharge time).

Lawnba? (2)

crow (16139) | about 2 years ago | (#41317695)

I know that there is another company that has long made a Roomba-like lawn mower. It uses buried wires, much like the invisible fence many pet owners use. It would be awesome to have one that eliminates the wires by using GPS and other location technologies to let you map out the area to be mowed.

Re:Lawnba? (1)

drfishy (634081) | about 2 years ago | (#41318929)

^^ This. I'm actually content with the current state of vacuuming robots - you need to adjust your house a little but they at least CAN work well. Lawn mowing robots on the other hand really need to be taken to the next level. I would love to buy one but there are just too many problems with the current offerings.

Re:Lawnba? (1)

GNious (953874) | about 2 years ago | (#41320909)

A device running around at "random" in your garden, with sharp blades spinning - what could possibly go wrong....

But yes - They should release one.

Hereti Corp. calling Dr. Schlock (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41317725)

... just a sluggy moment, sorry Mr. Abrams ...

Apple sued them (1)

stevegee58 (1179505) | about 2 years ago | (#41317771)

They infringed on Apple's i* trademark format.

better roombas first (1)

bananaquackmoo (1204116) | about 2 years ago | (#41317895)

How about trying to make robots which don't get tons of hair caught in them requiring attention multiple times per vacuum, or charging circuitry that doesn't break after maximum 2 years?

Re:better roombas first (1)

Miamicanes (730264) | about 2 years ago | (#41318085)

I own a Sharper Image vacuuming robot that would totally rock and beat my two Roombas like an unloved child, if its battery could manage to last for longer than 6-9 minutes. It's not a wimpy sweeper... it's a big, mean, dustbuster on wheels with REAL vacuum that can suck up a wad of cat hair from 2 feet away. I really wish I could come up with some way to retrofit a better power source onto it.

Yeah, I've considered mounting a pivoting rod to the ceiling fan like a big festoon and powering it directly with wires, and even contemplated replacing the battery pack with supercapacitors, and putting inductive-coupled charger coils under the carpet in strategic locations to give it a quick fill-up every few seconds as it runs. Know any Libyans with a spare RTG? ;-)

Re:better roombas first (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about 2 years ago | (#41318969)

Push vacuums get hair caught in them also. However, one tends to ignore it because it has enough power to compensate. The brush becomes a hair-ball brush. With Roomba's you have to clean it more often because it's not as powerful.

A robot probably wouldn't be safe with that much power: the cat's tail or your sock would be long gone before you noticed something was wrong.

I notice many new push vacs don't even have rotating brushes, just fixed position brushes. I haven't noticed a resulting quality difference, but am not very keen to notice such things. It may be "good enough" for regular dudes, but women likely pickier.

Maybe they should design a Dude-Vac with fixed brushes: simpler to clean but not quite as thorough. However, lower power may need more agitation motion to kick up the dust such that fixed brushes wouldn't cut it. Roomba's also have a rubber "brush", but I'm not sure its coverage is good enough by itself.

Re:better roombas first (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41321849)

It may be "good enough" for regular dudes, but women likely pickier.

Interesting that you consider women to be merely augmented "regular dudes"

$120 floor washing robot that works (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41317985)

A $380 floor washing robot is too much. Mopping the floor isn't worth that plus their overpriced chemicals. For $120, I'd buy it in a heartbeat.

They were trying to be the "Apple" of household mops. People at that income level pay for a weekly maid who does much more, better.

Re:$120 floor washing robot that works (1)

lexman098 (1983842) | about 2 years ago | (#41318215)

Not 120 but much closer [amazon.com] .

How about a vacuuming pack-bot (1)

RedDeadThumb (1826340) | about 2 years ago | (#41318183)

I'd buy a PackBot if it would vaccum my house. Wheels on a robot? How quaint!

Inflatable Robots by Otherlab (1)

HizookRobotics (1722346) | about 2 years ago | (#41318377)

IMO, the "big deal" in inflatable robots comes from OtherLab... They've built giant (ridable!) inflatable robots and inflatable robot arms with insane power to weight ratios. We did a special on them at Hizook a while back: http://www.hizook.com/blog/2011/11/21/inflatable-robots-otherlab-walking-robot-named-ant-roach-and-complete-arm-plus-hand [hizook.com] The OtherLab project is also part of the same DARPA program (M3) that spawned the iRobot inflatable arm.

Re:Inflatable Robots by Otherlab (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41323187)

Is that a dildo on the blue robot's head?

umm.. how 'bout a vacuum? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41318481)

As a long time owner of a Roomba and a scooba, I'd like to have a robot that is good at ... you know... all the things you promised all these years?

How about a roomba that has some actual heavy duty suction? How about a roomba that has a large enough dust bin, HEPA filters and brushes to go for more than say 1 month without having to be cleaned? ( BY A VACUUM mind you... irony is dead! )

It's amazing to me that we have mobile phones these days with more power than desktop computers of just 5 years ago and after 20 years we still have robots that have the brains of systems from the 80s.

Don't get me wrong, I like my roomba. I just expect something more these days.

iRobot is missing an opportunity (1)

Clifton Beach (809210) | about 2 years ago | (#41318551)

iRobot has gained a lot of experience in robots, but they are missing an opportunity to make it big because they do not have focus. They produce such a wide range of products - Military and domestic - none of which has the "Wow factor". I think if they focussed on building something which did a useful job really well, they could become the Apple of robotics. The time is really ripe for it and if they don't fill this gap someone else will.

Re:iRobot is missing an opportunity (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41320945)

I have a feeling Apple is going to become the Apple of Robotics...

Who woulda thunk Apple would be the Apple of Hardware...or the Apple of Music...or the Apple of Publicly Traded Companies and Market Cap?

~ Axis

General purpose robot (1)

zwede (1478355) | about 2 years ago | (#41318559)

Robotics today is where computers were in the 1960's. Back then computers were built for specific tasks, but were not intended to do stuff they weren't specifically designed for. It took the general purpose computers of the 70's and 80's to start the computer revolution. Same thing is needed in robotics. A general purpose robot platform; modular, upgradable and programmable. I'd love to have a robot for all the boring everyday tasks like cleaning, unloading the dishwasher, make my morning coffee and so on.

Rhoomba! (1)

stevenfuzz (2510476) | about 2 years ago | (#41318919)

I love Rhoomba. Best thing I have ever spent money on. I honestly don't understand the complaints. Other than needing a new part after a year or two, it has worked amazingly. It does wonders with cat hair, as well as messing with the cats. My girl always suggests that they make a roomba that will scale and clean walls and ceilings.

What SHOULD "be next" is improved quality.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41318945)

I own 4 roombas and 2 scoobas. It seemed like a smart decision at the time I bought them and for a year or so afterwards; after all, think of all that time which could be saved.

I had been advised to get a 2 year extended warranty and I did on the roombas. On the scoobas, none was available and one was "factory refurbished" with only a 90 day warranty.

At least half the robots failed utterly within the 1 year factory warranty and the rest shortly after that. I would have been utterly screwed without the extended warranties. Still I took a complete loss on the refurbished unit and the hassle of sending the others back for repair repeatedly grew wearisome. None of the units made it more than a month or so beyond the 3 year extended warranty. There is lots of use made of plastic parts which break and fail; and the batteries are expensive and don't last long and are NOT covered by warranties.

So..iRobot makes really charming crap; but it is crap and they seem to know it as they have certainly done an effective job of making sure they have zero liability within a short window.

My best advice for iRobot? Sell themselves to some company with a little more pride in quality.

My best advice for you? Don't buy an iRobot or, if you do, make sure you get a really solid extended warranty -- you are going to need it.

There's one more thing I should mention from experience. The time savings on the units isn't as great as you'd think. There is a lot of regular emptying and cleaning and other maintenance required. And the units only do a mediocre job of most cleaning, obtaining good results only with frequent use. Comparing that to my experience with my newly purchased Bissell non robotic unit (1/4 the price and probably 10 times the suction) I'd say the iRobot units actually took MORE of my time, all things considered, than manually vacuuming.

I really wish I could tell a better story as having robots do my cleaning really sounds ideal. But the reality is that iRobot sucks...and not in a good way.

Buy other robot companies (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41319757)

Seriously,

Now is the time to buy the promising startups and consolidate the older players.

Boston Dynamics and Festo come to mind as good acquisition targets.

Yeah, but think of their profits, if... (1)

Shoten (260439) | about 2 years ago | (#41320179)

...their latest model, the "Romney," gets elected!

Re:Yeah, but think of their profits, if... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41321975)

That one's a strange model though. Good enough for the GOP, but not a chance at a turing test...

Little known stuff...but check out Zeno (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41321777)

Not many know him yet, despite Hansons efforts over many years:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lyzPRGyG8OM

The latest model, the kid you never had...

Outdoor Romba (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41322201)

Take a Roomba, add a gasoline motor and a lawn mower blade. That's what I want.

How about an advanced general purpose cleaner? (1)

no bloody nickname (2429300) | about 2 years ago | (#41323307)

Considering that we have had industrial robots that can do quite advanced work
for far longer than I've been alive I find it quite depressing that our consumer
products remain so simplistic.

None of these robots are at all advanced with nearly no adjustable moving
parts nor any attempt at doing anything beyond simple and purely reactive A.I.
Shouldn't we by now have enough capabilities to create a robot that
is more than just a very crude little toy car that moves randomly?

I talking about something that can clean multiple types of surfaces rather
than just different types of floors. Something that can clean walls and
tables as well.

We are after all just talking about something which would need a
rotatable/adjustable robot arm that can move with a certain amount of
freedom coupled with a few different sensors.

I'm not suggesting that it should actually be intelligent. You would still
likely need to move small items out of the area that is to be cleaned as
well as program the task it should do.

Sure the first ones would be expensive (they always are) and it would take a while
to fully mature but this has to come close to the ultimate cleaning tool.

I had a Roomba once... (1)

halber_mensch (851834) | about 2 years ago | (#41324347)

and it was lovely to come home each day to a pristine floor with no kruft or dog hair on it.Then one day my dog shat on the floor while the roomba was "cleaning". You can picture what the result was.

Invent a programmable Voteba (1)

Green Salad (705185) | about 2 years ago | (#41326385)

in order to vote with more influence...oh wait...Diebold already sells those.

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