iRobot announces new Looj, ConnectR's retirement

Last week at the Consumer Electronics Showcase in Las Vegas, iRobot announced a new version of the Looj, their gutter-cleaning robot. While it wasn't the totally new product announcement many people (including yours truly) were expecting and hoping for, it does reflect iRobot's commitment to improving products based on user feedback. The new Looj has an interior antenna, a better auger that keeps it from flipping over, and the battery door no longer requires the use of a screwdriver to remove it. The new Looj isn't available for a couple of months, so the old ones are still in the iRobot store and on sale.

Perhaps more interesting was the second, quieter announcement via email: iRobot is shelving the ConnectR project, the Roomba-shaped robot that was iRobot's entry into the telepresence ring at last year's CES. iRobot has been running a pilot program to determine the real market needs for such a robot and it seems that now those needs are too far away from what the ConnectR currently is. They made sure to say that they're not necessarily out of telepresence entirely -- they maintain it's a place they need to be -- but just that whatever product they create, it's not going to look like the ConnectR. I think this is probably a good move; while I remain skeptical of current telepresence robots anyway, I think a small, low-profile package with lots of buttons is not what we'll ultimately be looking for.

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