Roboticists, Meet Your New Best Friend

The hackable Roomba

| | This booth demo model is capable of sensing large objects on the floor, and if unable to run them over, picking them up with a smart robotic arm.|

We at PopSci have always been big fans of the Roomba, the autonomous home robo-vacuum. Aside from being able to diligently cleaning your dirty, dirty floors without complaint, the Roomba has become become a thing of hacker legend. Enterprising robot fans the world over (including PopSci contributor and MAKE editor Phillip Torrone) have used its standard serial interface to make it do all kinds of tricks, from protecting your home to, well, cockfighting.

At this year's CES, the folks behind the Roomba took the original vac-bot's famous hackability several steps further with the iRobot Create—a wide-open, customizable platform for novices and serious roboticists alike. Basically a vacuum-less Roomba, the iCreate retains the original's advanced sensors, drive train and power management and adds several options for custimizaion: An on-board cargo bay with a standard 25-pin connector supports additional sensors, lights, motors or anything else you can dig up at Radioshack, and a command module accessory adds additional expansion ports and a programmable microprocessor for storing commands and processing sensor data.

At $180 for a package that includes the programmable command module, it's a powerful and remarkable affordable robotics platform sure to set many a hacker heart aflutter this year. —John Mahoney