BURLINGTON, Mass.--Someday soon Ava the robot may bring you to the Roomba vacuum cleaners at Best Buy or call you if an elderly relative at home fell down and can't get up. But first she has to get in the good graces of doctors.
Ava is iRobot's three-wheeled pedestal-shaped robot that sports a tablet computer as its "head," the primary user interface. If the pieces fall into place as its creators hope, Ava will be the company's ticket into new markets beyond its remote-controlled military bots and Roomba-led home cleaning products.
iRobot will start trials this year of Ava in a couple of her target industries of health care, retail, and building security, CEO Colin Angle said in an interview with CNET. During a demo last week at the company's headquarters here, a prototype Ava smoothly navigated through iRobot's office space based on a map it had generated itself.
Although its movements were not flawless (table tops remain a challenge), Ava points to a new era in mobile robots brought about by advances in other technologies, notably by better sensors.
"So much of robotics has to do with physical motion--navigation around our environment and doing increasingly high-level tasks--it makes these two initial markets (of military and home cleaning) seem pedestrian versus the dream of what's possible," said Angle.… Read more