iRobot, the maker of the popular robot vacuum Roomba, said it’s working on a version of the disc-shaped household helper that has arms. The company envisions a limbed version of the Roomba that’s able to help out with more complex tasks, like laundry, dishwashing, and food serving.
Colin Angle, CEO of the Massachusetts-based company, revealed these plans to Bloomberg while at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Angle said iRobot wouldn’t start selling the enhanced Roomba for another five years, but he noted that a prototype version was being worked on at its lab.
A Roomba with arms may sound alarming, but Angle told Bloomberg that the company has experience in the area:
IRobot previously developed robotic-arm technology for its military unit. The company sold that business in 2016 but kept the arm assets. At the time, the company didn’t know how to adapt the technology for mainstream use, Angle said, but new advancements in computer vision and the ability for robots to map out a person’s home make such devices possible.
Some hobbyists aren’t waiting for iRobot to create a more capable version of the Roomba. YouTuber and engineer Peter Sripol recently added a trio of ducted fans to a cheap robot vacuum, enabling it to fly over stairs — but also basically destroying its practicality as a vacuum.