i3 - July/August 2018 - 8

Tech

By Cindy Loffler Stevens
Q How did you begin the company?
A We wanted to create robots that would
make a difference and make practical robots
a reality. We hadn't yet figured out how
to make robots helpful and affordable for
consumers, so we were looking at other
areas where robots could create value with
multiple industries and applications.

Q Can you talk about your work with the
Defense Department?

A We were competing against some of the

iRobot's Founder
and CEO Colin Angle

i

Robot has its eye on the intuitive smart home of the future and is building an
ecosystem of robots to help turn this vision into reality. The company began in
the defense arena but today designs and builds consumer robots for the home,
including a range of autonomous vacuum cleaners and mopping robots, most
notably the Roomba that debuted in 2002.
Using its proprietary navigation software, robots like the Roomba can map a
home's floorplan, a feature that may someday enable connected devices in the
Internet of Things (IoT) to more seamlessly work together, providing increased value
for homeowners. iRobot is on track to cross the billion dollar revenue mark in 2018.
With more than 1,000 employees, the company has sold more than 20 million robots.
Leading this global company is Founder and CEO Colin Angle. Colin created the
company in 1990 with a fellow MIT graduate and professor. An early creation was
a six-legged walking robot called Genghis that had an 8 bit microprocessor and 256
bytes of RAM. The company now maintains an impressive portfolio of more than
1,000 global patents, ranking #5 on the Institute of Electrical and Electronics
Engineers' "Patent Power Scorecard" in the electronics category.
In his spare time, Angle is an avid scuba diver, kiteboarder, sailor, snowboarder and
white-water canoer, and was a wilderness guide during his school years. He says,
"While I was a student at MIT, I was incredibly academic but at the end of the semester,
I would hang it all up, take my canoe and go into the woods." He recently spoke with
i3 about how robotic mapping and the spatial information this technology provides
can make smart homes even smarter and beneficial for all.

8

JULY/AUGUST 2018

Q Why did you get out of the
defense business?
A There came a moment when the potential for consumer robots was so large, that
running a business that focused on both
consumer robots and defense robots was not
sustainable. You couldn't justify spending on
what was needed to make the military business succeed because you would be taking
away from investing in the consumer business. The best alternative was to let it succeed
by becoming its own independent company.
Q Are there opportunities for seniors in
the smart home?
A Long term, it is about elder care. We have
a great opportunity to help the world in a
I T I S I N N O VAT I O N

Photography by Webb Chappell

I N N OVATO R

largest defense contractors. We won a seed
contract to write a $120,000 proposal, but
we also built a prototype of the robot. When
we went in to pitch the concept and were
told our approach was too simplistic and
could never work, we said, "Well it actually
does work," and showed that it could climb
stairs. We won the contract. It was a $5 million program to create what turned into the
PackBot, which was deployed in Afghanistan
to perform cave reconnaissance. That
was the first combat mission that the U.S.
military sent a ground robot on. We went on
to ship more than 5,000 robots to Iraq and
Afghanistan. These robots were responsible
for saving thousands of lives. Developing
these robots was a very important contribution that we are very proud to have made.
It also turned into a very good business for
iRobot. It allowed us to scale and work on
new technologies, and it paid for a lot of the
learning that we went through as we looked
to develop robots for consumers. Our work
in the defense space was fundamental to
iRobot's journey as a business. It was the first
real, viable business that iRobot built, and it
paid for much of the learning that led to the
development of home robots.



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of i3 - July/August 2018

Contents
i3 - July/August 2018 - Cover1
i3 - July/August 2018 - Cover2
i3 - July/August 2018 - Contents
i3 - July/August 2018 - 2
i3 - July/August 2018 - 3
i3 - July/August 2018 - 4
i3 - July/August 2018 - 5
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