By Evan Ackerman
BotJunkie reported last week that iRobot was planning on releasing a new product at CES this year. We speculated that it might be something related to the Create, the ConnectR, or even possibly a lawn mower. But we were totally, completely wrong: it’s the second generation Looj, an updated and improved version of the Looj gutter cleaning robot. We got ourselves a video demo at the CES Pepcom event tonight, and it does look like it works better than the original (with fake leaves, anyway):
Now, this is not simply a Looj with a bigger battery and a fresh coat of paint. To their credit, iRobot paid a lot of attention to their customers, and made a whole bunch of changes and improvements to the Looj based on user feedback. The augur has been redesigned, the antenna is now internal, the battery is easier to remove, and the Looj moves slower, making it more efficient and gutter cleaning.
The second generation Looj goes on sale this spring starting at $129.99.
For the record, after seeing the Looj demo, I asked iRobot about three things: the future of the Create, when we’re going to see a robotic lawn mower, and what’s going on with the ConnectR. iRobot said that they are generally happy with how the Create is going, that it’s a good educational tool, and they have no immediate plans for hardware updates any time soon. They wouldn’t speculate on a lawn mower, but we know they’re working on it.
As for the ConnectR, based on feedback that they got from their beta testing, iRobot has decided that the ConnectR basically needs a total hardware and software redesign, and will likely reemerge on a non-Roomba based platform. It’s also been more or less shelved for the time being, primarily because iRobot wants to make something that operates like the Roomba or Looj: you push one button, and it just works. The ConnectR was too complicated, and they need to rethink it, but iRobot also said that they feel telepresence is going to be big, and they’re still planning on making something happen with that… They’re just not sure yet what it’s going to be.