Without any official announcement, iRobot has quietly cancelled the long delayed ConnectR, citing poor feedback from beta testers. The iRobot website still lists the ConnectR, and there was no announcement from iRobot of any kind.
Word of the cancellation came from several beta testers who received e-mails with the announcement.
In the announcement, iRobot cites that the ConnectR did not make it through the pilot test due to the fact that the product was not yet practical enough to meet users expecatations, and while the current iteration of the ConnectR is officially dead, that iRobot will continue to work on virtual visiting robots for the home and that they will only release it when it is practical enough to meet consumer demands.
While it was not mentioned, I'm sure the fact that both the Spykee and the Rovio both launched to a fairly tepid response at half the expected retail price of the ConnectR certainly played a part in iRobot's decision as well.
While I have no doubt that there will eventually be a large market for telepresence robots, I'm not sure the technology is there just yet in order to release a product that performs well enough to satisfy consumer expectations. Even the just announced $30,000 Anybots QA telepresence robot comes with only the bare minimum of features, and while the Anybots QA does offer promise, the price point will relegate it to a very small niche corporate market.
Here is the letter that beta testers received from iRobot:
Dear ConnectR® Enthusiast,
Thank you for your support and patience while helping us explore virtual visiting robots and how they fit into our lives.
Over the last year, thousands of people like you signed up to participate in the iRobot ConnectR pilot program. After beta testing we discovered that ConnectR, in its current form, needed enhancements and modifications to meet customers’ expectations for virtual visiting. As such, iRobot has decided to cancel the current ConnectR program so that we can focus on developing new virtual visiting robots that incorporate your feedback.
We greatly appreciate the time and care you took in participating in the iRobot ConnectR pilot program.
- The ConnectR Team
Why didn't ConnectR make it through the pilot test?
While ConnectR users enjoyed having the robot and experienced the many advantages of virtual visiting, it was found that the robot was not yet practical enough to meet their expectations. One of our main goals at iRobot is to provide our customers with practical, easy-to-use robots.
Is the ConnectR program discontinued?
No. While the ConnectR that we have come to know will not be sold commercially, iRobot will continue its work on developing practical virtual visiting robots for your home.
When will a new virtual visiting robot be released?
iRobot has no timetable as to when a virtual visiting robot will be available for purchase. We are currently looking at the ConnectR pilot program and are working to address the issues found there. iRobot will not put a virtual visiting robot up for sale until it is practical, easy to use and includes the necessary features that customers want.