iRobot is having a birthday – they’re turning 20!! In the 90’s two MIT grads, Colin Angle and Helen Greiner, and their MIT Professor, Rodney Brooks, joined forces to make practical robots a reality and 20 years later they are still at the forefront of technology with new and exciting ways to not only help us in our homes but in healthcare, research, and education. It all started by them winning the NASA Group Achievement Award from designing a behavior-controlled rover for NASA. This led to the Sojourner exploring Mars in 1997. In 2002, iRobot launched two robots that would ultimately cement them into our culture, the Roomba floor vacuuming robot and PackBot tactical mobile robot. Five million robots from the household line of vacuum robots have sold worldwide, making it the best-selling consumer robots in history. 3,000 units of the PackBot have also been dispatched to the military and as well as civilians worldwide.
So what does iRobot plan on doing in the future. Well taking over the world no doubt – just kidding, actually they are going to be ramping up their education initiatives in robotics. They will also be taking a new direction into incorporating robots into assisted living situations for seniors, making them a fundamental member of a family or caretaker at the very least.
Personally we are hoping for a Roomba refresh – it’s time for one and there are certainly quite a few companies out there that are currently nipping at their heels looking to take over iRobot’s robotic vacuum spotlight.
Looking ahead, the company will explore the potential of robotics and drive innovation in other arenas, including:
• Healthcare: iRobot believes that next-generation practical robots have the potential to extend the time that people can live independently in their homes. Robots may be capable of assisting in senior care in a variety of real-life situations, including household chores and the on-time administration of medication. This could ultimately lower the cost for care.
• STEM Education: iRobot is a leader in supporting STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education in schools to revitalize the foundation of American innovation and competitiveness. With its SPARK (Starter Programs for the Advancement of Robotics Knowledge) program and leadership role in organizing National Robotics Week (April 10-18, 2010), iRobot is devoting its time and resources to use the wonder and genius of robots to inspire in students K-12 a curiosity and interest in STEM-related subjects.
• Government Research & Development: iRobot’s Research Group performs cutting-edge robotics research, funneling the resulting next-generation technologies into iRobot product lines that cover a wide variety of mission profiles. Research projects awarded through the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) have led to state-of-the-art products that revolutionize how consumers and the military use robots to complete tasks.