I am keeping an eye out for examples of consumer co-development/co-creation, as I think it is an important future trend. That is why I was so happy to run across this piece of news in the IHT today: iRobot (makers of the robot vacuum, Roomba) is helping their customers hack the product:
And iRobot is happy to help them experiment. In October, it introduced a $30 kit that lets people reprogram the software in older Roombas so they can modify how they work. The newest models feature a digital data port, similar to those found on personal computers, that permits control of the robot's sensors and motors. And iRobot is even giving university robotics labs free Roombas to use as teaching aids.
The idea is to encourage a new wave of robotic innovation that will not cost iRobot a lot of money. Investors have rebelled against the company's recently announced plans to increase spending on research and development. The company's stock, which sold for almost $38 in mid-January, now trades at about $28.
Brilliant. It will be very interesting to see what comes out of this. At this moment, what I am most interested in is how they are gathering feedback. They don't blog, but you can submit reviews. This company is a prime candidate for adding more interactive/conversational features. If you are out there, iRobot people, feel free to let us know what you are doing. I'll be in touch offline as well.