SNS: Special Letter: Robots As Solutions

SNS: Special Letter: Robots As Solutions


Volume 15, Issue 17    
Week of April 23, 2012

In This Issue

Feature: Special Letter: Robots As Solutions: Extending Independent Living, Sampling The Seas, Blowing Up Bombs, And Doing The Improbable

  • The Tipping Point
  • Looking Ahead
  • About Colin Angle


Publisher’s Note: As we approach FiRe X, we wanted to get this Special Letter by iRobot CEO Colin Angle into members’ hands, as Colin will be one of the many exciting entrepreneurs joining us in May. When we first brought Colin to FiRe, many years ago, it was because he and his firm had managed to sidestep all of the blind alleys surrounding the robotics field and come up with something that was supremely useful. No, it didn’t speak French, leap over buildings, or cook like Julia Child, but it vacuumed the house – any house – without bothering the owner. Wow.

In other words, Colin and iRobot brought us the first robot with mass consumer use and appeal. Instead of looking like a human with a dustpan, its looks were the perfect cross between form and function: it looked like nothing we’d seen before, and it was able to get under all those cupboard edges that a vertical vacuum cleaner has problems with. And it had a nearly magical set of algorithms for navigating around things, and – most impressive – knowing when it was done, all without instruction. It did have to be turned on.

Colin fixed even that in later versions, with new scheduling software and homing abilities that allowed the unit to find the charger and charge itself. Considering how most of us feel about housecleaning, this was the perfect design. In some sense, given his relentless drive to improve and simplify, you might call Colin the Steve Jobs of Robotics.

iRobot was early into other applications, which were hazardous to humans, with a large fraction of effort and revenues today focused on making the battlefield safer for troops.

Today, iRobot continues to lead the world in avoiding flash and finding and doing what is most needed. For those who think strategically, I believe you’ll agree with Colin when he describes this industry as a remarkable technological and economic growth engine for the future. I trust that this week’s issue by Colin, describing iRobot’s plans and dreams, will just whet your appetite to hear and see more at FiRe X. – mra.

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