Robots weld a truck cab at a Chrysler plant in Michigan. As new generations of super “smart” robots perform more complex tasks, what will happen to the workers they replace? Photo: Associated Press File Photo / AP

IRobot CEO Colin Angle on the future of military, consumer & health care robots (video)


IRobot Corp (Nasdaq: IRBT) marked 22 years in business at a party for 600 of its employees and other members of the Boston-area robotics community at Cruiseport Boston on the South Boston waterfront Wednesday. The Bedford, Mass-based company celebrated the 10 year anniversary of its signature vacuuming robot, the Roomba, and 5000 military robots shipped to the U.S. Defense department, with music, speeches, live robot demos, and a display of cakes that included robotic elements capable of cutting and serving the dessert.
The past year has been one of significant change for the company, which has decided to shift some investment away from its military business, in anticipation of defense budgets which are expected to stagnate at best, and at worst, face deep cuts if Congress does not reach a compromise to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff.

Colin Angle video interview still
Business Journal video still by Galen Moore

IRobot CEO Colin Angle talked about the future of military robots, health care robots and consumer robots at the company’s party for the 10th birthday of its Roomba floor-cleaning robot.

Watch: Colin Angle on the future of home, military and health care robots (video, right).
The company said in January that “robot doctors” would drive iRobot’s future growth. The first of those health robots, which allow remote doctors to make bedside visits, rolled into hospitals in July.
The company has also decided to double down on its consumer business, which contributes 60 percent of its revenue. Earlier this week, iRobot announced it has agreed to pay $74 million forprivately held, Calif.-based Evolution Robotics Inc., a maker of a robot that cleans hard floors with both wet and dry elements. This robot, called Mint, will complement the Roomba’s rug-cleaning functions, and is lower in price, the company stated.
Colin Angle, in an interview at the Cruiseport event, said that while the company is most closely associated with its consumer products, he is most proud of its work to save the lives of military personnel. He said the company received a boost from military deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now, legislative gridlock may slow the trajectory of innovation, but the Pentagon’s long-term demand for robots will stand.
Angle has hopes for the consumer business beyond mere convenience – he wants robots to transform Americans’ home life, from keeping elders at home longer, to creating a home of the future, Jetsons-style.

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