At first, we were disturbed. That really is a robot, positioned to be reading a book to two children. It's the iRobot ConnectR, one of two robots the iRobot company is adding to their line of products--most notably, the Roomba. The other is a seemingly much more reasonable option, Looj (even if it's name is phlegm-inducing), gutter cleaning robot.
The ConnectR is intended to be a fully movable, VOIP-quality two-way speaker phone and video camera, apparently to allow family members out of town to interact with the family or even the family pets while they're away. After thinking about it for a bit, this might be the kind of thing, in the right settings, that allows for interaction while someone's away that isn't limited to the area right around the computer. Maybe kids today will think this is normal, the way cell phones, IMing and texting are normal now, and not have the reaction we did when first thinking about the ConnectR. Otherwise, this is technology ahead of it's time, and will flop. Only time will tell, but you're welcome to venture a guess! It will be piloted with a selected group of participants and retail for $199, but it's ultimate price will be around $500. The Looj, pictured on the right, will be released in time to be a Christmas stocking stuffer and retail for under $100. It's only 2.25 inches high, allowing it to get under the straps that hold the gutter in place, and uses a 3-stage auger to get the debris out. - Images and info from Electronic House.