Forbes – iRobot (maker of the Roomba) has a new robot, called Ava. iRobot made it compatible with applications written for Apple’s iOS operating system and Google’s Android platform. “To truly accelerate the robot industry, we need more people developing for it,” said iRobot Chief Executive Colin Angle in an interview. “Now, if you can develop for Android or iOS, you’re a roboticist.”
Ava has an adjustable three to five-foot-tall “torso” atop a sturdy, triangular set of wheels, utilizes either a tablet computer or a smartphone as its head. The tablet/phone, which doubles as the robot’s brain can be either iOS or Android-powered, such as an iPad, iPhone, Motorola Xoom or Samsung Galaxy Tab. Ava, which runs on an iRobot Linux-based software platform called AWARE is also designed to be controlled remotely with a corresponding tablet or smartphone.
Third-party Ava apps have yet to emerge; iRobot still considers the robot a prototype. But the company has created several apps that it plans to offer to Ava users and outside developers when the robot becomes broadly available, likely some time in 2012.
Robot’s mobile robotics platform Ava can run Apple (iOS) and Google Android apps.
Two of iRobot’s initial Ava apps focus on navigation and map-building. It’s a key aptitude for a robot that was built to roam hospital and factory floors with minimal human oversight. One app essentially creates a Computer-Aided Design (CAD) map based on Ava’s excursions. The map, which resembles a 2D maze, can then be labeled and otherwise refined for a person to use in directing Ava around a room or floor.
Ava’s other app also maps its environment but with an emphasis on 3D images.
IRobot says Ava’s new apps stand out because they are the first practical (non-research lab) demonstration of autonomous robot navigation involving the quick mapping of a crowded space.
IRobot says mobile app developers will have access to all of this functionality as well as data feeds from Ava, such as live video from its camera. The company also plans to switch on new features in Ava, such as gesture and voice recognition. That functionality would enable users to direct Ava with voice commands or by clapping, waving or pointing in a certain direction. “We’re building out the toolbox,” says Angle. “Developers will be able to build on top of this.”