Jan. 7, 2011 at 11:25 PM ET
You know iRobot for its Roomba vacuum cleaner, and you may have even heard of its new Scooba 230, a 3.5-inch high round robot due out this spring that is supposed to clean around toilets and other nefarious areas so you don't have to.
The Scooba ($299.99) is being shown at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, but another one of iRobot's robots is the real star of the company's exhibit. It's a 5-foot-tall robot named AVA that looks a little like a 21st-century version of Rosie, The Jetsons' family robot maid — but without the apron or the hat.
Unlike Scooba, AVA isn't for sale. There's no mysterious or fudged availability date, as with so many products shown at CES.
AVA is a "concept robot," says Gerry Caron, director of product management for iRobot. And while AVA is a "she," he says, her name is not really meant to be of any gender; AVA is short for "avatar."
"We want to show people a vision of what they can have" at some point with a home robot that's designed for several uses, Caron said. (Tell them, AVA: "No, I don't do toilets.")
AVA can run apps — hence the iPad for the robot's "head." But it wouldn't have to be an iPad; AVA can use other tablets or devices in the iPad's place that would be used to run all different kinds of apps: for security, for a "telepresence" for video conferencing or for navigation.
Meanwhile, AVA has three wheels which "move sideways or in any direction," without the robot swinging out or around to do so.
AVA also won't bump into anything around the house. The robot uses a depth-sensing camera, similar to the Kinect from Microsoft, and PrimeSense's sensors to find its way around the room.
The robot's potential for apps is another reason iRobot is showing AVA off, hoping that developers will be as smitten with the 40-pound robot as those attending CES are.