New App Store Caters to Robot Fans

If you want to waltz with your Roomba or remotely control your flying AR Drone, there's an online store that sells apps that let you do those things, and more. In fact, there are more than 300 apps available at the new site,

The e-marketplace -- the brainchild of longtime robotics enthusiast, programmer and innovator Elad Inbar -- is unabashedly modeled after other online app stores. With over 20 million domestic robots in use, Inbar said, there's a natural market for robot-related apps, just as there are markets for games and other apps.

Analyzing the way the app market has evolved, he pointed out that it was difficult to make money creating games for mobile phones 10 years ago, because developers had to rewrite each app for every phone. But using today's tools, it's possible to build apps that run on multiple devices.

Inbar said he expects the same type of progress in the robot apps world: A new class of tools not yet available will help developers build ever-more-complex and interesting apps for consumer-grade robots.

One up-and-coming area, he explained, is domestic navigation. Apps built for this purpose help robots learn how to get around your house and note where things are. For example, if you ask a robot to find your reading glasses, it will know which glasses belong to you (as opposed to other people who live in your household), where you left them, and how to retrieve them without running into the sofa or tripping over the dog.

At the moment, most of the apps available at relate to entertainment, music and games; other categories include productivity and surveillance. Most of the apps are free, but some cost up to $10. Developers set the prices, and Inbar's company takes a 30% cut of whatever customers pay.

And now, if you'll excuse me, my NAO robot is reading my email.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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