Feeds

iRobot offers crawling Wi-Fi spy-n-chat housebot

Now grandma can have a sticky-beak whenever she likes

Application security programs and practises

Robo-vac and wardroid manufacturer iRobot has debuted a brace of new products today, in a move keenly anticipated among bot-lovers. Sad to say, the robot butler or Heinlein-style* Hired Girl™ mechanical scullery maid has yet to appear.

The most interesting of the new iRobot offerings is the ConnectR, which is a refinement on existing IP webcam tech. Keen home networkers have been able for some time to install IP cams with built-in web servers in their houses or wherever. One can then log into the camera across the internet from a remote location, seeing and maybe hearing what's going on. Only the home router needs to remain powered up, rather than one or more computers as would be the case with a conventional USB webcam.

ConnectR takes this technology and puts it on the same motorised chassis that iRobot uses in its line of Roomba autonomous floor cleaners. Absent parents and grandparents can thus vicariously roam about in the home, looking around at what's going on and holding two-way audio conversations with residents.

Mmm, that hunky gardener's coming round.

I'll just turn off Bill's bloody robot spy.

Many IP webcams present certain security issues, and setup can be troublesome for unskilled users owing to the fact that a typical home broadband connection will have a "dynamic" IP address which changes from time to time. However, iRobot reckons it's dealt with these problems, using its own servers as intermediaries to deal with dynamic addresses and employing VPN tunnels for secure connections.

"Today iRobot is delivering to customers practical home robots that are affordable, effective and easy-to-use," says iRobot CEO Colin Angle in the company release.

"The future is now"<cringe>"and everyone can and should have a robot in their home today."

In the case of ConnectR, Angle means "everyone" in the sense of "everyone who has broadband, home WiFi and access to a Windows XP computer at the remote location."

The other new iRobot is the "Looj," which rather strains the definition of robot-ness. Looj is a small battery-powered machine designed to run back and forth along roof gutters and clean them out in a oner, rather than requiring repeated climbs up and down a ladder.

If the iRobot videos are to be believed, Looj is just the barber if you own a house with a lot of long gutters on it and don't care to hire a penniless wandering chimney sweep to clean them. Looj is on sale now direct from iRobot for $100.

As for ConnectR, that will go on sale next year for $500. However, you can sign up for a place as a beta tester right now; and if you're accepted you get your test ConnectR for $200.

Hmm. It remains to be seen whether the ordinary broadband household really wants a trundling, talking spybot roaming about in it under the control of possibility overly-inquisitive grandparents, absent but opinionated spouses, possible random hackers etc. Up to ten remote user accounts can apparently be set up for each droid, so all your friends and acquaintances can get in on the fun. Do make sure grandma doesn't leave her password lying about somewhere, though ...®

*The "Hired Girl" domestic-servant robot appeared in this book.

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
Asteroid's DINO KILLING SPREE just bad luck – boffins
Sauricide WASN'T inevitable, reckon scientists
BEST BATTERY EVER: All lithium, all the time, plus a dash of carbon nano-stuff
We have found the Holy Grail (of batteries) - boffins
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
Famous 'Dish' radio telescope to be emptied in budget crisis: CSIRO
Radio astronomy suffering to protect Square Kilometre Array
Bad back? Show some spine and stop popping paracetamol
Study finds common pain-killer doesn't reduce pain or shorten recovery
Forty-five years ago: FOOTPRINTS FOUND ON MOON
NASA won't be back any time soon, sadly
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable
Learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.