An App Store For Robots
Written by Lucy Black   
Thursday, 22 December 2011

The recently launched RobotAppStore is an online marketplace that lets developers make apps available for purchase by robot owners! So the next time you want you extend your robot's capabilities, just visit the app store.

According to the International Federation of Robotics, the personal robotics market has increased tenfold in four years, with nine million units owned in 2010. It is expected to continue growing exponentially, surpassing $17 billion in five years, with an anticipated 100 million personal robots in circulation by 2018.

To meet the likely demand for add ons to extend the functionality of personal robots, and inspired by mobile app stores, has been launched as the first portal to enables robot owners to purchase and download applications that extend the functionality of their robots.




At the moment the portal is in beta and to be honest it looks a little rough with a number of spelling mistakes throughout the site and missing facilities. It is only open to developers, who are encouraged to submit apps to extend the functionality of a list of robots that includes Nao, Aibo, Lego TXT, PR2, Keepo, iRobot and DARwin. In keeping with mobile app stores developers are offered a 70% share of revenue and registration is free.




The suggested applications you might develop to add new new robot capabilities range from teaching humanoid robots to do new tasks such at clothes folding to new ways of using telepresence droids. You can clearly see that there are likely to be "killer" applications. For example, what about a surveillance and security app for the Nao or similar robot?

At the moment many robot platforms are only used for research or for hobby development, but with the right software they probably could do a real and useful job. The list of platforms that you can consider writing apps for goes down to functional devices such as robot vacuum cleaners and even sensors such as the Kinect.

This is a good idea, but is it an idea whose time is now (no pun intended)?  Robots are becoming more commonplace, but they are mostly either very low grade - vacuums and lawn mowers with limited, if any, facilities to download apps or they are development/ research tools. Undoubtedly the day will come when you browse the robot app store for something fun and exciting that will make your domestic robot do something new, but I'm not convinced that the day is so close.

I hope I'm wrong.



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