iRobot Ava 500: Enterprise Robotics


The Ava 500 Video Collaboration Robot, produced by iRobot and Cisco, is set to provide an executive remote meeting experience that’s a significant step up from the standard setup of Skype or Google Hangouts combined with a laptop. The Ava 500 can also be used to tour factories, labs, customer service centres and other locations where it’s not possible to be in the flesh.

Built like an all-in-one PC atop a moving platform, the Ava 500 is just about the next best thing to being there. It can be operated remotely via iPad, so you can move between rooms and meetings from the other side of the world, as well as see anything that’s happening on your travels. The large 21.5″ high-definition display means your colleagues can get a good look at you too, wherever you happen to be.

Aimed squarely at the enterprise market, the robot comes with top-grade security protection and interoperability that keeps unwanted interference out while allowing easy interaction with other video collaboration tools. iRobot suggests its latest model could be used for remote team collaboration, executive off-site management, and tours and inspections. Models should start appearing for sale by the start of 2014, though prices have yet to be confirmed.


Vice President and General Manager of iRobot’s Remote Presence Business Unit Youssef Saleh had this to say: “iRobot is excited to work with Cisco to bring this next generation of telepresence to businesses worldwide. iRobot has been successful in introducing autonomous remote presence platforms to hospitals. Ava 500 will unlock new markets and applications for telepresence in the workplace.”

“Cisco is committed to improving communications, relationships, and productivity by helping people meet face-to-face over distances,” commented Snorre Kjesbu, Vice President and General Manager of Cisco Collaboration Technology Group. “The iRobot Ava 500 is a perfect example of using Cisco’s portfolio of high-definition video collaboration solutions to innovate and expand the reach of telepresence.”

A working model of the robot was demoed at the recent InfoComm 2013 Conference and Expo in Orlando, Florida. Head to for more details about the company’s product line and further announcements about the Ava 500.

iRobot Mirra 530 and Looj 330 Pool and Gutter Cleaners: Robot Chores

Pool cleaning isn’t normally the first type of manual labour (or in some parts of California, Manuel labour) that I would assume would be under threat from robots. According to my knowledge, which is based solely on movies, pool cleaners are good looking wayward men in their early 20s who spend half their time idly raking the pool and the other half flirting with bored housewives and curious husbands. I need to watch better movies.


However once again technology has lept in to innovate and iRobot has introduced Mirra 530 a Pool Cleaning Robot. Chore-laden children in sleepy towns across American movies can also rejoice as the company also procudes the Looj 330 Gutter Cleaning Robot.

iRobot Mirra 530 a deep cleans any type of in-ground pool surface and water. This means you don’t have to use the pool’s filtration system, hoses or booster pumps as often so you save and lot of energy and money in the long run. Mirra 530 provides complete pool coverage anda thorough cleaning through its iAdapt Nautiq Responsive Cleaning Technology which allows the robot to size up the approximate dimensions of the pool – then choose the optimum cleaning cycle for maximum efficiency. Mirra makes multiple passes over the entire inside of the pool, floor to waterline, including walls and stairs and constantly responds to its environment by navigating obstacles, changing directions when necessary and making sure not to tangle its 60-foot floating power cord.


The iRobot Looj 330 cleans gutters on its own at the press of a button, taking a dangerous yet tedious job and doing it for you. Looj uses a high-velocity, four-stage auger to blast away leaves, dirt and clogs while brushing gutters clean. In CLEAN mode, Looj automatically senses and adapts to debris, providing the most effective cleaning. Its low-profile design enables Looj to fit in more gutters worldwide (Looj is already on sale in North America). A communications range up to 50-feet between the robot and remote control handle allows Looj to clean long stretches of gutter without having to move the ladder and Looj is waterproof in up to 8 inches of water.

Mirra 530 features the latest in pool cleaning technology and an easy-to-use design, bringing yet another state-of-the art solution to iRobot’s line of home robots. This is also the first time that our outdoor robots, including the award-winning Looj 330, will be available internationally, a huge leap forward for the fast growing robotics industry.

Jeff Beck, chief operating officer at iRobot

Mirra 530 will have a suggested retail price of $1,299.99
Looj 330 will have a suggested retail price of $299.99

Sphero: Roll with IT


Among Michael Bay’s many crimes, first and foremost in my mind is “making robots boring”. Even when I learned as a child that robots existed and mostly put together cars, there was still a fascination with them until Bay managed to make “giant robots fighting” into an epic three-part snoozefest. If only someone could make robots fun again.

Enter Sphero, a delighful app-powered robot for nerds, kids and normal folk (but mostly nerds). Sphero is a robotic ball gaming system that crams a ridiculous amount of technology into one of the simplest toys we have – the ball.

At first glance Sphero is simply a ball and the urge to bounce is hard to resist. Although obviously Sphero is bringing a lot more to the table. How much more? Well that’s actually one of the many interesting things about the device. Sphero is app-controlled and is more of a platform than a singular experience. There are a number of Sphero-related apps in the app store and a small community of nerds tweaking and building more all the time. So there are a whole host of things you could find yourself doing with it. It’s more than just a ball.


It is also a ball however and one of the simple pleasures of Sphero is hooking it up to your iPhone/Android via Bluetooth and using the accelerometer or on-screen controls to manipulate Sphero across the floor. It took me a while to “master” the control system but it’s pretty enjoyable zipping along between the discarded USB keys and iPhone cases that litter my floor. He also swims although I didn’t fancy running a bath to test this out.


You can also make Sphero change colour and controlling a robotic glowing ball of light darting about my carpet is not how I envisaged spending my evenings.

The open-ended nature of Sphero means it can be played with in various ways. There’s a macro app that enables you to create little subroutines and execute them on the spot. If you’re a bit more hardcore you can download the SDK and make a full blown app. One of the more interesting uses I found was using it as a controller to navigate an R-Type style shooter that was similar to playing with a Wii. I also tried out a fun little augmented reality app that utilised my iPad’s camera. Everyone I showed Sphero too was amazed but a little disappointed that you couldn’t have an onboard camera rolling around – even though I have no idea how this would work in practice.


Sphero was fun to play with in short burst and I really got into making little subroutines for it to interact with. It’s somewhere between toy and enthusiasts hobby kit although the price – £99.99 – should warn you that this is a lot more involved than your average app-cessory.

Sphero has just hit these shores and is available from stores such as MenKind and online from Amazon Firebox and

Neato Robotics XV-15: Robotic vacuum cleaner

Robotic vacuum cleaners are great. They combine robotics (cool) with not having to do chores (awesome!) The Neato Robotics XV-15 is the latest addition to the robotic vacuum family, bringing with it a unique, square-tail design.


Technology-wise, the XV-15 uses 360-degree laser-mapping to survey a room’s size, notice obstacles and get to work. Like a cat, it’ll glide into a room, walk the perimeter before moving inwards. Unlike a cat, however, after the XV-15 has finished, there will be less hair on the floor.

By intelligently surveying the room, the XV-15 uses less energy moving about and on wasted sucking than previous models. This power has been redirected into the motor, increasing the suction to new heights (for robotic vacuums, anyway).

At the vacuum’s core is a centrifugal compression impeller that follows jet engine airflow principles, which Neato claim offers “unprecedented cleaning performance”.
It’s laser-mapping ensures that any object over four-inches in height is avoided, while it’s low profile (under four inches) means it can clean under a tables, beds, sofas etc.

It has other useful features, like a scheduler to ensure constant cleaning, and the ability to find its way back to the dock when in need of a charge. We’re more taken in by the look, however – it’s like an Atari Jaguar console. The square end is actually there to allow for a larger dirt bin (.65 litres), as well as better corner-cleaning – a big problem for robotic vacuums (no eyes for detail).

The Neato Robotics XV-15 is available for pre-order today from Neato Robotics for £379.99.

TWIG:Robot arms, GEKKOLinks and Blackbox M10s

The Week In Gadgets

This week saw the launch of the Blackberry Torch 9800 and Blackberry 6 OS to a lukewarm press reaction. We also saw the release of the call-me-anywhere satellite phone – the iSatphone Pro and a cloud based music service from the Carphone Warehouse. There were also some guitars made from paper.

The good people at pointed me in the direction of the frankly amazing Remote Controlled Mechanical Arm – a build-your-own remote control robot arm.


I can’t believe I just typed “build-you-own remote control robot arm” but apparently they not only exist but can be yours for £39.99. Billed as an educational tool, the Remote Controlled Mechanical Arm lets you learn how machines work and it is a great insight into the basics of control systems. Get one from here. And get me one too.

Last week we looked at Blackbox’s i10 silencer earphones and this week they released their M10s which have the same Active Noise Rejection technology but in an overear cup style (which rotate so they are ideal for DJs). They also have a similar price to the i10 silencers, retailing at £89.99.

Travel bloggers should check out GEKKOLinks, a new service from the save@gekko people that automatically converts mentions of hotels on websites into affiliate links and makes a small box appear with relevant information including availability and prices from multiple booking engines.


In theory, the GEKKOLinks service should improve sites for readers – you could be reading a review of Hotel Yoruba, decide you like it and book a room without leaving the site. And publishers should get a cut of any bookings as well. You can sign up here.

Over the course of next week we should have reviews of some new and exciting iPod docks, a 3D camera for under £200 (well £199.99) and some spy cameras. Should be wild.

Samsung Navibot: New breed of cleaning robot

I confess it: here at Latest, we’re not always interested in domestic appliances. I mean, until someone put an internet connection in a toaster, I’d never cooked bread. So when we go out of our way to visit the launch party of a vacuum cleaner – the Samsung Navibot – it had better be a really special one.

And it was. The Navibot is the most technologically advanced robot vacuum in the world, boasting 36 sensors, a camera capable of capturing 30 frames a second (or 110,000 an hour) and a 167 degree viewing angle. And with a small form and cute circular case, the device impresses aesthetically as well as on paper. It was almost like meeting Wall-E’s great-great-grandfather.


All that technology is squeezed into the Navibot’s small shell so that the device can be packed with more features than some computers. For instance, the device boasts six cleaning modes – Automatic, where on the touch of a button (or a touchscreen, on the premium model) the device sets about vacuuming the room. Set it to Max, and the little dirt-warrior will begin cleaning your house non-stop until it runs out of battery – perfect for those of us with mansions or neuroses.

However, a dead battery is a rarity, because the device boasts a range of 100 square metres before needing a recharge. Even if it does need to recharge, it will return to the docking station, charge up, and then start cleaning from where it left off. According to Samsung’s tests, it finds its way home 99% of the time – better than most pets.

Other modes include Schedule, in which you can programme the Navibot to carry out your cleaning bidding at set times, Spot Clean, where the device cleans the nearest 1.5m, Edge, where small brushes come out the side and sweep dust towards the main suction unit, and my favourite, Manual, where you can control the toy vacuum from a supplied remote control.

The Navibot achieves these feats of cleanliness due to Samsung’s “Visionary Mapping System” which dynamically maps your room, allowing the little beast to work out where it is, where it has been, where it needs to go and what it needs to drive around. This system is powered by IR sensors that detect near-by bumps, and a camera aimed at the ceiling, used to work out how much space it has to clean.

As far as sucking-up dust goes, the unit picked up everything I saw it roll over, has a HEPA filter, a bagless 0.6 litre capacity with quick-empty (you can suck out the dirt using another hoover, but only on the premium model), the ability to detect edges and avoid falling down the stairs, and, in an example of supreme innovation, an anti-tangle technology, so if the device picks up a trailing cable, it will reverse until the cable has unwound itself, and then avoid that location.

At £399 and £449 for the basic and premium models, the unit itself isn’t super cheap – but it does undercut existing remote vacuums as well as boasting a whole lot more features. However, if you feel that isn’t enough of an expense, opulent buyers can purchase the optional “Virtual Guard” add-on, which is two mini-towers that send an anti-Navibot signal between them, creating an invisible wall that the device will never pass.