IRobot Makes Learning Robot More Affordable

When you think of iRobot, you probably think of floor cleaning or military robots. But they also have a set of robots aimed at education. The Root robot — an acquisition the company made in 2019 — originally targeted classrooms and cost about $200 each. A new version costs about $130 and is a better fit for home users.

The original version  — Root rt1 — is still available, but the rt0 version has several missing features to hit the desired price. What’s missing? Apparently, the rt1 can stick to a whiteboard using magnets, but that feature is missing on the rt0. There are also no “cliff” sensors or color scanner.

On the plus side, there is a new $20 option that allows either version of the robot to mount Lego creations. Usually, the robots can draw with a marker underneath and retract it on command. The rt1 can also erase the marker. With the Lego base, though, you can use that same mechanism to actuate something like the catapult in the video.

The robots can be coded using something that looks like Scratch or using text-based coding. The editor — you can even simulate it online for free– has three levels, depending on the student’s ability to read and code. In addition, there are many free exercises and activities.

For $130, these seem as though they’d be easily hackable as a robot platform. Of course, you want this for your kids and we wouldn’t say otherwise.

Educational robots are not a new idea. If you want to stick with iRobot for the big league stuff, you can also get a Roomba that doesn’t suck.

10 thoughts on “IRobot Makes Learning Robot More Affordable

        1. I’ve had the same issues with iRobot. Great hardware but if you’re not in the USA, you get shafted on price. Trying to import direct from the USA is pretty fraught too. It’s regional DVD coding all over again.

      1. I’ve been looking for any way to program the root using a proper programming language. I don’t mean to say swift (the level 3 language “offered” in the companion app) isn’t a language, but rather that it isn’t really swift. It’s snippets that look like swift that you drag into loops. But there is no provision for procedures, naming loop variables…

        I understand that such restriction is necessary to allow the language levels to be translated back and forth, but I can find no option to give up such translation and use the keyboard to type full-blown swift. (Or LOGO, which is what I was hoping to use).

        Is there an open (or closed) way to compile full blown programs and upload to the root?

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