High Technology on the Low End

Between stories of the latest multi-core processor and miniature military drones, there’s usually not much talk of technology making its way into the more mundane items found in the average Western home. Usually the high tech excitement is focused around televisions or videogame consoles; it’s been a while since I’ve seen a reporter use the phrase “smart appliance” in a news story. But C|Net has some nice coverage (Link) of iRobot’s new & improved Roomba robotic vacuum cleaner that certainly fits that description. Worth a read, and there’s also an associated video (Link).

There was, however, something that bothered me. From the “Photos” section of C|Net’s coverage (Link):

Unlike previous generations, the Roomba 500 series is upgradable. iRobot plans to make firmware upgrades available down the road for different functions and parts.
“There’s the ability using this modularity to basically upgrade every major subsystem in this by just ordering that subsystem off the Web…So that allows the purchaser to realize they’ve got a robot that’s going to live with them for a long time, and if we come up with something better they’ll be able to ride that,” Preneta said.

The article isn’t specific and I didn’t find anything on the iRobot website (Link), but it’d be a shame if the device didn’t get its firmware upgrade through a direct download. Even more of a shame if iRobot didn’t use such an interface to gather information from deployed devices in order to help them improve the product’s functionality.

Even so, I’m considering purchasing one. The big challenge for me will be restraining the urge to disassemble it.