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iRobot's newest machine is made for student hackers


Many educational robots tend to be complex and expensive, or simple and cheap. Where's the middle ground for students who want to build sophisticated things, but don't want to pay a fortune just to get started? iRobot thinks it can reach that happy balance with its new Create 2 robot. It's effectively a Roomba 600 series vacuum turned into a hacker's paradise. Instead of the usual cleaning equipment, you'll find easily accessible, clearly marked spaces that practically beg for add-on hardware (like cameras and arms) and cosmetic modifications. It's the foundation for a robotics project rather than a fully accessorized (and therefore costly) machine, as CEO Colin Angle tells us. You will get many of the tools you need to get cracking, though, including a programming framework, example instructions and 3D printing files for extra parts. So long as you can write code and plug in through USB, you can turn the robot into a Bluetooth-controlled DJ, a miniature security guard or whatever else your budget and skills allow.

As you might imagine, stripping down a floor-roaming automaton does wonders for its price. Where a basic Roomba 630 costs $350, the iRobot Create 2 is launching today for $200. That's inexpensive enough that it should still be relatively affordable even after you've bought the gear needed to make your dream device. It's definitely not meant for younger kids, but it could be an ideal blank slate for college and high school students that need (or want) to learn programming by solving real-world problems.

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