Getting the bugs out of personal robots

Innovation First's toy bugs pack a mighty computing wallop of light sensors and infrared motion-control equipment.

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crab.03.jpg
Hexbug Crab, a new, more advanced model due out in August.

(Fortune Small Business) -- Sales of personal robots for entertainment are expected to reach $3.6 billion a year worldwide by 2012, up from $250 million in 2007, and Innovation First, based in Greenville, Texas, is staking out its share of that market.

The company, which employs 75 and expects 2008 revenues north of $30 million, is betting on a line of educational robot kits and inexpensive toys.

The Hexbug Micro Robotic Creature Crab, $12.99, and Inchworm, $14.99, both due in August, represent improvements on earlier versions called Echo and Delta. The new crab features a light sensor that makes it prefer dark spaces. It will scuttle across a desk until finding a shady spot to rest.

These may be toys, but the technology they pack is not kids' stuff. The Hexbugs harness a new crop of cheap light sensors and infrared motion-control equipment.

"These toys are at the stage personal computers were 30 years ago - just on the fringe of wide adoption," says Joel Carter, Innovation First's vice president of marketing. To top of page

What do you think of the hexbug? Join the discussion.

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