In the Will Smith movie "I, Robot," the robots are humanoid and menacing. In the real world of you and me and the company iRobot, the machines are much more...ordinary.
The Roomba 560 vacuum cleaner from iRobot, seen here, is typical of commercial robots at the dawn of the 21st century--it's a bit of a drudge. But that's also why the company has sold more than 3 million of the autonomous floor-cleaning bots, the first of which appeared in 2002; they've got a job to do, and they do it well.
And you can expect a lot more chore-minded robots moving in to homes and workplaces in the not-too-distant (and not-so-sci-fi) future, as prices come down and capabilities go up. (The Roomba 650 sells for $380.) NextGen Research has estimated that the worldwide market for consumer-oriented service robots will hit $15 billion by 2015. Says Paolo Pirjanian, CEO of software maker Evolution Robotics: "We want floor care to be the same as the sprinkler system for the lawn--set it up once, move on, forget about it."
May 27, 2009 4:00 AM PDT
Photo by: iRobot
| Caption by: Jonathan Skillings
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