While the big news from Google I/O was today’s official launch of Chromebooks, other Google partners are thinking about new mobility paradigms. Take iRobot, for example, the folks that brought both the Roomba and Scooba robots to more than 6 million homes. The company today announced that it would use Google’s Android platform to power its new Ava line of robots, first seen at January’s Consumer Electronics Show.
That version of Ava used an iPad as it’s head, but at Google I/O, iRobot is showing off an Ava model that uses a Motorola Xoom Honeycomb tablet in place of the iPad. And the robotics company complemented the demo by announcing that it’s teaming with Google to help create Android applications for Ava, although developers can do the same. In a statement, iRobot CEO, Colin Angle, said:
Ava is the first app-ready robot. By tapping into an almost limitless supply of Android-based apps, Ava is poised to revolutionize how people communicate and deliver information through remote presence and other means. With the right ideas, Ava can also revolutionize how people live both at home and in the workplace.
I think Angle is on to something by combining tablets with robotics, although I saw the light with smartphones as the brains, eyes, and ears of such robots. Angle’s idea to use a tablet is similar because aside from a bigger display, there’s many similarities in the hardware and capabilities of slates and smartphones. I noted this last August in a GigaOM Pro report (subscription required), calling smartphone-powered robots the next big thing:
Robots in the home aren’t necessarily a new concept, but the ones I envision in a not-too-distant future will leverage various technologies of the smartphone, thanks to advances in chips, various sound and sight sensors, wireless broadband and software.
Phones and tablets can crudely replicate the senses of sight, hearing and speech due to their various sensors. Thinking power is provided by low-powered processors which are given things to do via software; that’s where Android comes in.
We’ll have to see what kind of apps that iRobot and third-party developers create for Ava, but I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see the robot have an interface with Google’s new Android@Home initiative: you could just tell Ava to fire up the dishwasher and shut off all the lights in unoccupied rooms while reading the latest from Google News!