I can't order one from over here, but if you're looking for a real sweetheart deal on the Roomba 440 robot vacuum, then checkout the woot! Website offer of the day. They're offering the robot for just $119.99.
The Spanish robot website, Robots al Detalle, evaluates the navigation system of the Ecovacs Deepoo D76 robot vacuum cleaner.
Although the captions are in Spanish, it's pretty easy to understand the meaning from the video footage. And, yes, we were just waiting for the robot to pull the lamp off the table...:D
That being said, it's difficult to see any clear or compelling difference from the Roomba vacuum cleaner we already own and use regularly. There must be some difference in the cleaning algorithms or design, otherwise they would have problems selling it without patent challenges and litigation, but they aren't obvious.
Is the home robot vacuum destined to be the solitary domestic robot assistant? Of course we hope not. But, there don't seem to be any strong challengers to its leading position at the moment.
And, how much improvement, other than cost reduction, can be accomplished by iRobot or its growing number of competitors? There are some design tweaks that would help.
For example, here in Japan acceptance of the Roomba, and most of it's clones, has been severely hampered by the fact that owners have to come in contact with the floor dust and debris when emptying and cleaning the robots dust bin and brushes. That may seem to be too anal or picky for Westerners, but it is a major negative for the Japanese housewife. All of the domestic vacuum manufacturers go to great lengths to isolate the dust and dirt by using disposable bags that can be easily changed without any exposure. Of course modifying the robot design to incorporate that type of feature could possibly increase the manufacturing costs.
The Robots al Detalle website lists a wealth of domestic robot vacuum cleaners and their YouTube channel includes videos of many of the robots in action. It's a good resource for an overview of what's available, including some that you may never of heard of before.
If your Roomba floor cleaning robot is out of power when you arrive home after work, and its automatic docking/charging function didn't seem to work properly, it might not be the robots fault. Your cat might be the culprit that hijacked the Roomba for a joyride!
The Roomba 530 yesterday in Akihabara. Japanese major retail store price is 79,800 yen (USD$853) while the average US price is about USD$300.
We even made the trek out there a couple times just to see the huge (and no doubt extremely expensive) Cyberdyne robot technology showcase facility they setup in the new shopping center located just a few minutes walk from their headquarters.
Of course, it bothered us a tiny bit when we noticed, or thought we noticed, that it always seems to be the same guy wearing the HAL suit. Was it just a matter of scheduling, training, or doesn't the one-size-fits-all rule apply to robot suits? But that's a minor concern. It doesn't keep us wake nights loosing sleep.
The real question that does keep nagging us is "how are they going to
make money?" As wonderful as the HAL technology is, can it actually be
commercialized and sold at prices that will generate a high enough profit margin for the shareholders to eventually see a reasonable return on their investment?
Certainly there are numerous potential applications for the HAL suit, or some derivative implementation of the core technologies. These might include enabling hospital staff to safely lift and reposition patients, giving construction workers the ability to deal with heavier building materials, or letting farmers process more crops or work longer hours without experiencing crippling pain and strain.
In most other countries those types of problems have a simple solution
- find cheaper sources of labor, typically by allowing immigration from poorer, less fortunate, countries.
That may, or may not, turn out to be a viable solution here, due to a cultural issues. Nevertheless, most of the potential applications for HAL that we can think of are quite cost sensitive.
Hospitals are extremely cost concious. While they are willing to spend huge sums for state of the art medical diagnostic equipment, like the latest CT scanners, will they be willing to pay a price premium to implement robotic systems to move patients around?
Will farmers, even with government assistance, be in a position to spend the sums necessary to tend their crops wearing the HAL suit?
We certainly hope that the answer is a resounding 'yes', but it remains to be seen.
Hopefully Cyberdyne and its investors can survive through the current economic crisis that has taken a severe toll, sometimes fatally, on other robot companies.
One of the things we really enjoy about the internet, and more specifically about social/sharing sites like Youtube, Flickr, and Facebook, is the never ending stream of ideas and inspiration.
For example, we’re a huge fan of robot sumo but hadn’t seen robot sumo played with modified Roomba robots in formal competitions ? at least not until this morning when we were pointed to the Tallinn 2009 Spring Cup robot sumo competition video below.
Now our mind is literally racing with the possibilities. What other neat things can be done with the Roomba platform? Is anyone doing Orange County Choppers hacks on the Roomba? Why doesn’t RoboGames have a Roomba Sumo category?
’Roomba Sumo Rocks in the Baltics (Video)’ continues