The folks at iRobot apparently have plenty of time on their hands. They created a prototype wireless, robotic vacuum cleaner...powered by a hamster running inside a spinning ball. The rodent's movements with the ball are fed to and analyzed by a complex set of sensors, which then guide the actual vacuum device to mimic the animal's speed and direction. You can see where this is going: it's a clever ploy to then get you to buy a second robot that would automatically feed, water, and clean up after the hamster in the first robot. It's all here via YouTube. It's probably an important way for iRobot scientists to cope with the company's grim just-ended fiscal year news: yearly revenues down by almost 25% and profits of $0.8 million compared with $9.1 million a year ago. UPDATE: As a couple of readers at least pointed out, I fumbled. iRobot's yearly revenue actually INCREASED by nearly 25% compared to fiscal 2007. "Net income" (generally called "profit") did suffer that steep year-to-year decline, to $0.8 million from $9.1 million. But the iRobot release notes: "The 2007 quarterly and annual results include an $8.6 million tax benefit, largely associated with the release of deferred federal tax allowances, while the 2008 quarterly and annual results include $4.8 million and $0.4 million of tax expense, respectively." My apologies.
Robot-related: <a href="http://www.networkworld.com/community/node/39255">Robofi: at CeBIT, flying Wi-Fi robots for emergency response</a> <a href="http://www.networkworld.com/news/2008/012408-super-bowl-lxii-2028.html">Super Bowl LXII 2028 - The future of football</a> <a href="http://www.networkworld.com/news/2008/030608-open-source-robot.html">Open source robot: your next personal assistant</a> <a href="http://www.networkworld.com/slideshows/2008/091908-big-bad-robot-warriors.html">Slideshow: Big bad robot warriors</a> <a href="http://www.networkworld.com/video/?bcpid=1343712625&bclid=1363192037&bctid=4960658001">Video: Year in Review: Robots Everywhere!</a>