The iRobot is the latest in internet-enabled domestic robots. Made by the iRobot Corp of Massachussetts, the 60lb, 23 by 17in device is a mobile video camera with sensors to stop it bumping into table legs, and 9in differentially driven wheels for tackling stairs. The camera pans and tilts both ways, the whole caboodle co-ordinated by a pentium-class microprocessor running biologically modelled behaviour software.
With the on-board Apache-SSL web server and 1.6Mb/ sec wireless data link, iRobot can be controlled from any PC linked to the internet. A voice link allows you to conduct a conversation in real time.
Potential uses? Checking up on pets, babysitters and builders and keeping housebound relatives company. But dollars 5,000 is a lot to pay for a gadget that can watch your property being burgled yet can't stop it. And it takes eight hours to charge the lead-acid batteries.