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CES: Robot with an iPad for a Brain

Is there anything Apple’s tablet can’t do?

Yesterday, at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show, iRobot presented its latest prototype—a mobile robot that uses a tablet computer for its brain.

There have been plenty of other telepresence robots, ranging from video screens on wheels to strange, blob-like prototypes. The new robot, called AVA (for avatar), is an interesting twist, combining telepresence with autonomous control. A user can either operate Ava remotely, for a video conference perhaps, or let the robot maneuver around on its own, carrying out tasks assigned to it through the tablet acting as its head.

AVA is equipped with microphones, speakers, and a host of sensors, including two PrimeSense motion sensors (the same ones used in the Xbox Kinect), as well as sonar and laser rangefinders for mapping. It builds a map of its surroundings and displays it on the iPad. A user can touch a spot on the map to tell the robot where to go.

AVA could open up robotic programming to a host of people, potentially leading to interesting new applications.

PC Mag’s Lance Ulanoff writes:

Angle explained that the inclusion of these mobile devices means that anyone who can program an iPad or Android app can now program a robot. Some more obvious uses include meeting telepresence, home and office security, material handling and grabbing you a beer from your refrigerator and bringing it back to you.

To see the robot in action, check out PCMag’s video interview below.

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