I spent the past two days at the RoboBusiness show in Boston. Robotics is an exciting growth industry, but one that has been troubled by too much cool technology and not enough solid business plans and marketing. I will be discussing some possible reasons for this in a separate post. One of the leaders in consumer robotics, and the founding sponsor of the show, iRobot stands out as one of the success stories in an industry with a lot of mechanical bodies strewn on the side of the road. iRobot has found the secret formula to building relatively affordable robots that automate everyday consumer tasks, from vacuuming to pool cleaning. We had a chance to catch up with iRobot at CES
, but we wanted to take a closer look at the new version of their gutter cleaning Looj which is now available for pre-order on their web site ($129.99).
The Looj looks and sounds like something from a nightmare. Its relentless tank-like propulsion gives it power to drive through your gutters from one end, and then again. It works by twirling leaves and other debris out of your gutter, up in the air, and away from the roof. You still need to get up on the ladder to get it started at one end, but gone are the days of having to shimmy along the side of your house on an unstable ladder.
Click here for Looj demo Part 1
Click here for Looj demo Part 2
Besides being a huge time-saver, the Looj is worth the money if only for its safety value. Every year, thousands of people are injured or killed performing this annual Spring-cleaning task. I know from experience— my wife’s uncle fell off a ladder while cleaning his gutters and broke his back and shattered bones in his leg and foot. He could have easily been killed, but it still caused him months of pain and discomfort and permanently reduced his mobility and ability to participate in high-contact sports. We learned a new acronym from his dreadful experience: “10-D-50” which means you have a 50% chance of dying from a fall 10 feet or higher, with the death rate rapidly increasing with each 10-foot increment.
The Looj is just under 2 1/4" high and 3 1/4" wide, so it can make it through most standard-sized gutter apertures (iRobot recommends you measure your gutters to make sure gutter straps are at least 2 1/4" above the bottom of the gutter). Spinning at 500 RPM, it uses a three-stage auger to break up clogs, lift out debris, and brush gutters clean. The new version is fully waterproof including a new battery compartment that snaps out (the older version required you to unscrew it). The detachable handle is also the wireless remote control and works from 75 feet away. The new version also hides the antenna by baking it into the body of the device. It weighs about 5 pounds and comes with a belt clip to allow you to keep both hands on the ladder while carrying it up to the gutter.
We will be keeping an eye on iRobot and will certainly include them in our upcoming “Robotics Thought Leaders” report. I wish I could also cover some of their military robots, but that is not really our focus at Trender Research. I guess we could always mount some weaponry on the Roomba… maybe a flame-thrower for disinfecting dirty floors? A pebble shooter for wayward mice?
Bonus Footage: Roomba In Action.