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Features and Considerations

Although humanoid robots may be too expensive for most people to own rather than rent, many of the utility-type robots, such as the robotic vacuum cleaners and lawn mowers, are definitely within reach. The Roomba Intelligent FloorVac, as it is called, can be purchased for a mere $199.95 from stores such as Brookstone, Hammacher Schlemmer, and Sharper Image (Plate 16). The Toro iMow Robotic Mower can be purchased for around $499 from a variety of retail locations, including certain Ace Hardware stores. If you want to try building your own robot and experiment with various scenarios, Lego offers a number of products under their Mindstorms range. Their Robotics Invention System includes a microcomputer together with CD-ROM software, numerous Lego elements, motors, touch sensors, and a light sensor and infrared transmitter. With these components you can build various “plug-and-play” robots including a Roverbot, which can move around, avoid obstacles, and follow a straight line, and an Acrobot, which can flip and dance. Additionally, you can write programs for your robot by using an RCX programming language from Lego and then upload these instructions to your robot by using an infrared transmitter. The RCX is the programmable Lego brick which is used as the basis for the models. The Robotics Invention System is aimed at children and adults of 12 years and up and is priced at $199.99.


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