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IRobot Corp (IRBT.O: Quote, Profile, Research), a maker of vacuums and bomb defusers, said on Thursday it has developed a device for cleaning gutters on homes and a Web-controlled robot with a video phone.
Its shares shot up 5 percent to $19.99 after it issued a statement, helping pare declines on other news earlier this month that it lost a key contract to provide robots to the U.S. military.
IRobot's products will join a line that includes floor cleaners for consumers and bomb-dismantling robots sold to the military.
The $99, 2.25-inch high Looj drives under gutter straps propelled by a three-stage auger that sweeps out dirt, leaves and debris.
Users control the Looj from the ground, though they need to climb up and down a ladder at least four times -- to place and remove it.
Currently, most U.S. homes owners have to clean the gutters by hand and that process is more labor intensive.
IRobot said it was looking to revolutionize communications when it thought up ConnectR, the second product it debuted on Thursday, at the DigitalLife show in New York.
The robot has a top-mounted, tilt-and-zoom video camera, speaker, microphone and headlight to enable users connected remotely via the Web to see, hear and interact with people in the home
ConnectR does not have a video screen, so the people in the room can only hear the remote user, but cannot see expressions or gestures.
IRobot's consumer division president Sandra Lawrence said that while she was excited about its prospects, there was a chance ConnectR, which is still being tested, may not make it to mass production.
IRobot will sell those early adopters the machine for $200 and ask them to report bugs, describe their interaction it and provide requests for improvements. If the company decides to go ahead with a production model, the final cost to consumers would be about $500, Lawrence said.
"We are interested in finding out just what people are doing," she said.
Parents may be inclined to use them to check up on babysitters, who will know they are being watched when ConnectR wheels over and starts talking to them.
But for teenagers with snooping parents, ConnectR has a privacy button that can disconnect the remote user.
iRobot® Looj™ Gutter Cleaning Robots
Get the faster, easier way to clean gutters
Reduce ladder work and over-reaching while cleaning your gutters. Gutters need to be cleaned regularly to avoid water damage, overspills and ice dams. Plus, dirty gutters create a breeding ground for carpenter ants, mosquitoes and other pests. Now you can avoid climbing and repositioning a ladder multiple times while juggling tools and over reaching from dangerous heights. iRobot Looj makes regular gutter cleaning faster and easier.
Avoid climbing and repositioning the ladder multiple times
Works with standard K-style, aluminum, copper, metal or vinyl gutters
Avoid over reaching into gutters from dangerous heights
Cleans a 60-foot section of gutter in just 10 minutes