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Roomba maker iRobot may make robots that talk to your smart home devices

Will the future of robots look more like “The Jetsons” or “The Terminator”?

Vjeran Pavic for Recode

Bedford, Mass.-based iRobot, best known as the maker of the Roomba, sells robots that can clean physical things: Your floors, swimming pool or gutters. Its next products might look to tidy up something you can’t see — the data informing your smart home.

Speaking on the latest episode of Too Embarrassed to Ask, iRobot vice president of technology Chris Jones said he’s thinking about robots that act as mobile sensors, traversing the home and measuring things like temperature and humidity. Speaking with Kara Swisher and special guest host Dan Frommer, Jones said that potential route would build on iRobot’s advancements in understanding a home’s geography.

"The ability for a robot to navigate around the home, to understand where it is in the space, to re-recognize when it goes through the home and comes back to somewhere it’s been before, to not be dumb, is artificial intelligence," Jones said. "Robots are unique in the sense that they’re mobile, they’re physically interacting in the real world."

That sets them apart from other related efforts at artificial intelligence, such as Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa virtual assistants, he added.

"You can’t put something on a robot and say, well, it’s going to work 90 percent of the time," Jones said.

Chris, Kara and Dan also answered questions from our readers and listeners about robotics, including how robots might work on farms and whether the TV show "BattleBots" is a form of cruelty.

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