At five pounds, you can pick the thing up and toss it -- in fact, the company encourages such action. The FirstLook was built to be thrown into dangerous areas, and it's rugged enough to smash through plate glass windows to get there. The 'bot has a patch of skateboard-like grip tape on its top, opposite the bendable antenna, so you can easily grab it with a single hand. You toss the FirstLook side arm, like a frisbee, and no matter what side it lands on, the rubber treads will cushion the blow a bit. If it happens to hit the ground upside down (with the antenna on the bottom), the triangle wings on either side can be slowly extended in either direction to right the robot. Same goes for when it bounces down a flight of stairs, unharmed.
iRobot 110 FirstLook hands-onSee all photos
The remote has a small joystick to the left of the display. It's really like playing a video game -- we jokingly mentioned that we'd been training for it all our lives with our console games, and the iRobot rep had to agree. Anyone who's spent any time sat in front of a TV, playing Nintendo can start driving it immediately. There are two buttons on the top of the controller for righting the robot, a menu button and a one that alternates FirstLook's speed. The robot can cruise up to three miles per hour -- it was really quite zippy rolling over the rocky terrain of iRobot's testing ground.
Part of us sort of wishes that there were a consumer version of FirstLook we could take home -- and heck, with the company's recent reorg, strides made on the well-funded military side of the company will likely have even more influence on its consumer-facing products. In the meantime however, it will certainly go a ways toward keeping soldiers out of harm's way.