Nothing makes a complicated device popular like opening up further development to the public. Take the Android or iOS phones and tablets, inexpensive or free software development lead to an explosion of popularity.
Willow Garage (WG) has set out to try something similar with robotics in 2006. Founded by Scott Hassen in an effort to advance robotic development through the offering of an open-source platform for hardware and software tinkering. Beginning with the PR2, a large robot with limbs and mobility. But at $400,000, not the most useful for the general populace. While working on the PR2, WG engineers built the Texai Remote Presence System. This allowed the engineers to interact at a distance.
Now, WG, has released the TurtleBot. This robot is a very simple design based around the iRobot Create platform, a Roomba like bot made for developers. A Microsoft Kinect is the main vision sensor. And the core is an Asus 1215N (Netbook), Dual core Intel Atom, 2GB Ram. Although, it looks like anyone can build one for themselves, WG will have development support, libraries, and a community for the TurtleBot. Coming in at around $1200 when released, for the ambitious, it is a decent value.