Thursday, September 27, 2007

Move over Second Life!

Second Life attempts to provide users with a virtual world. Now iRobot who makes those cool little cleaning robots has introduced a new robot designed to provide its users with a virtual presence. The ConnectR is supposed to be a "virtual visiting robot" allowing the user to visit a place from a remote. If you are on a business trip to some remote location, Kansas for instance, and you want to talk to your kids and your spouse at home in Boston. ConnectR has a video camera and microphone mounted as part of a flat Roomba style robot that you can remotely control and talk to your family through a home's wireless network.

Or if you have a cat that scratches your furniture when you are away then you could presumably scare the wits out of it even though you are at work. Depending how noisy the bot is, there are endless possibilities for spying on your kids or stealing trade secrets as a former iRobot employee is alleged to have done. Also this could really revolutionize education. You don't have commute to school just let your ConnectR stay at school while you interact remotely.

Oh and prospective Catholic saints have new way to do bilocation and avoid the heavy metaphysical labor involved in being, as iRobot claims, "in two places at once."

More seriously, I think this robot has possibilities for monitoring pets or aging parents who are far away. I think my father would have been intrigued by this robot but maybe he wouldn't have wanted me to see that he was not as able to get around toward the end of his life as he led us to believe. The robot is remotely saucer shaped like iRobot's cleaning bots and they might not be the best system for more sophisticated remote applications. Also it doesn't appear to have a screen so those people you are interacting with can see you.

iRobot also released a specialized robot for cleaning gutters, and I suspect this will be particularly useful in the upcoming presidential campaign in the United States - no wait- wrong gutter.

At any rate, if you're interested in field testing the ConnectR you can apply on the iRobot site and get one for $199, if you help field test it. Might be great fun for "early adapters". I signed up even though I am not usually far from my family and my cats are declawed so we will see if they accept me for the program. The regular retail price is supposed to be "just under" $500 according to the company's website.

By means of full disclosure, I do own stock in iRobot in my small caps portfolio.
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