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iRobot’s newest bot is a lab rat for researchers

The Create 2 features the same sensing and detection abilities that every Roomba vacuum cleaner uses to get around a room.
The Create 2 features the same sensing and detection abilities that every Roomba vacuum cleaner uses to get around a room.Dave Bradley

The newest member of iRobot’s family is a disk-shaped doppelganger to the familiar Roomba vacuum cleaner. But rather than sending it scooting after dust bunnies, the company is pitching the $199 Create 2 as a programmable robot that is also an affordable educational and research tool.

The Create 2 has all the brains of a Roomba but without the vacuum. Potential customers can program it to perform different tasks, and iRobot anticipates selling it to graduate students at universities or researchers at startups who are building the next wave of robotics technologies. A lab developing a better way to sense and avoid objects, for example, doesn’t need to construct an entire robot on which to test its software — it can just buy the Create 2. Another lab making, for example, robot arms could use the Create 2 as the basis for a Franken-bot.

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“They’ll be able to spend more time on more cutting-edge robotics,” iRobot chief executive Colin Angle said. Part of iRobot's goal in launching the Create 2, he said, is to help the industry develop its technologies faster.

This latest model, on sale in the United States starting Wednesday, is an upgrade to one that launched seven years ago. This new robot features the same sensing and detection abilities that every Roomba uses to get around a room. But in place of the vacuum, the Create 2 has an empty space to safely house additional electronics to power modified parts.

Another change: The bot’s electronics have been modified to meet international standards. So for the first time, iRobot is expecting to sell its educational platform outside the country.


Nidhi Subbaraman can be reached at nidhi.subbaraman@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @NidhiSubs.