The ER1 Personal Robot System was unveiled at the Electronics Entertainment Expo this week.
Touted as the first Internet-enabled, completely autonomous consumer robot, it is the first product from Evolution Robotics. With the company's US$499 build-it-yourself kit, the mobile robot is constructed around a notebook PC. Included software permits novice robotics hobbyists to program complex behaviours with "relative ease", the company claims.
Key to the robot's success is a vision system that lets the robot map its environment and track its use of visual cues, says Bill Gross, Evolution Robotics chairman. The vision system is actually a common USB-connected PC camera, but it enables the ER1 to manoeuvre in an "unstructured environment".
Gross says: "In the past, if you wanted a robot in your house, you needed one of two things. Either you had to lay tracks in all the hallways and rooms you wanted the robot to go, or you needed to create a pathway of magnets under the floor. Nobody wants either of those things, so they never took off."
With the freedom of movement the ER1 enjoys, it can navigate a house with ease and find its way to a destination even if furniture is moved.
The robot can follow or track objects or people, which may lead to more than a few annoyed cats in robot-enabled households over the next few years.