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EScroogeJr (< 20)

irbt should hire pmichael

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January 08, 2007 – Comments (0)

As I predicted yesterday, (http://caps....043115362412), IRBT unveiled a "new" product called Roomba Create Kit. For all practical purposes, it is the Roomba Red that doesn't vacuum.

What is the target audience of this disfunctional robot? Schools, colleges, and robot enthusiasts are expected to buy Create Kit to acquant themselves with consumer robotics. After all, you can connect it to your PC and program it to accomplish a whole variety of tasks, such as...hmm...well, go forward. Or go back. Or go left. Or even go right. Look, you can even it even program it to make beeping sounds.

What, are you saying that Roomba can do all that? Yes, this seems to be true. But think about the possibility of upgrades. If you can find some robotic company that makes moving parts, you can buy them and improvise some way to attach them to your Roomba Create Kit. For example, if someone can make a programmable robotic arm, you can put it on top of your IRBT freesbee, plug the freesbee into your PC, and learn everything you want to know about programming robotic arms. It is true, of course, that you can just as well put the arm on any remote-controlled toy car.

Browsing the IRBT site, I came across a message from a user named pmichael, who built a robotic arm for under $300 and installed it on the freesbee. The robot can open your fridge, take out a beverage, and bring it to you:

http://creat...message.id=2

Isn't it just amazing? If IRBT made a robotic arm a part of its Create Kit, we would now have a functional versatile robotic platform for under $500. Volunteer open-source programmers would immediately teach the robot to hold a hand vacuum or a mop in its arm, how to push aside small objects on its path, etc. All of a sudden, we would have a robotic analogue of the first Apple computer.

Concerned about the price tag? No problem. Go one step farther. Don't throw away that vacuum. Instead, let your Roomba Create kit live ip to its name and offer its user the option to create his own Roomba. Charge an extra $100, include the Roomba vacuum and the Scooba water-sprinkler into the kit, with the instruction how to attach them to your freesbee on wheels. And nor for mere $600 you've got the Roomba and the Scooba combined, which can also clean in corners, wipe dust off furniture and bring you those cans of beer from the fridge.

In several weeks, the user pmichael has accomplished the task that really should have been done by IRBT's team of engineers as they worked on this new product for months. Which gives rise to a question: does IRBT have any mechanical engineers at all, or the only thing they can do is develop circuitry and algorithms?

With $70 mln on its balance sheet, IRBT can afford to add one more employee to its 347-strong workforce. So, here's my suggestion: if nothing else works, and your 347 employees cannot design moving robotic parts other than the fourth wheel for the Create Kit, hire pmichael. He will show you how to make a robotic arm for $300. You can then lower the cost as you start producing them in mass.

P.S. A poster on the Yahoo board has corrected me, pointing out the error in my earlier post. IRobot does not rely on John Deere to make hardware for PackBots. PacBot mechanical system was in fact designed by IRBT and manufactured by GemCity Engineering. I apologize for the error.

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