There have been many robotics companies that have emerged throughout the years, but one that has stayed for a long time is iRobot, a business founded in 1990 by three members of the Massachusetts Institution of Technology’s (MIT) Artificial Intelligence Lab. What makes iRobot unique is that they primarily focus on home robots, which are designed to help humans to perform various chores around the house. However, besides home robots, iRobot has also ventured into other applications of robotics, which you will learn more about once you take a look at the brief introduction to iRobot below.
History of iRobot
The history of iRobot is fairly simple, as the company didn’t really have much drama after its founding in 1990. The three members of MIT’s Artificial Intelligence Lab that founded the company were Colin Angle, Helen Greiner, and Rodney Brooks.
Helen Greiner was a former CEO of CyPhy Works, Inc., which was a startup company that specializes in multi-rotor drones for military and consumer use. In addition, Helen Grein is the CEO and Chairman of another robotics startup company, Tertill, since September 2020. On the other hand, Rodney Brooks was a former Chairman and Chief Technical Officer of Rethink Robotics and is currently working for the same positions in Robust.AI that was founded in 2019.
Going back to iRobot, they received a research contract for DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) in 1998, thus allowing them to do research on robots designed for military use. But, in 2002, iRobot announced that they would make home robots with the introduction of Roomba, a vacuum cleaning robot that sold more than one million units by 2004.
In November 2005, iRobot started being traded on the NASDAQ or Nasdaq Stock Market, with their ticker symbol being “IRBT.” To expand their research and development team, iRobot purchased the rights to own Evolution Robotics, a company responsible for producing the automated floor mopper called Mint. To focus more on manufacturing home robots, iRobot sold its military robotics department to Arlington Capital Partners in February 2016.
Home Robots Made by iRobot
There are a few home robots that were made by iRobot, and they have been in production for many years because of how efficient they are in performing their assigned tasks in the house. In addition, the positive reviews that iRobot keeps getting for their home robots push them to continue to produce the robots even if they already have heavy competitors in the home robotics industry. Here are some of the popular home robots made by iRobot that are still in production.
The company’s best-selling product is the Roomba, an automated vacuum cleaning robot that was first released by iRobot in 2002. In just two years, the company was able to sell more than a million units because of how convenient and easy the robot is to use.
The Roomba vacuum is powered by a rechargeable battery, which means that you don’t have to change batteries for it since you only need to charge it through the included docking station. What’s great about the Roomba is that you really don’t need to put it in the charger, as it will automatically go to the docking station once it is finished cleaning the floor. Another great tidbit about the Roomba is that iRobot intentionally lets customers hack the robot so that they can experiment with its features.
In 2015, iRobot announced that they would release an upgraded version of Roomba called “Roomba 980,” which features a camera that allows the robot to see its surroundings and map out where to go and what to avoid. The upgraded Roomba also has a “carpet boost” that automatically increases its suction power when it detects that it is moving on a carpet. The boost would then enable it to get even the most stubborn dirt on the carpet’s fabric.
Create is a hobby robot that was introduced by iRobot in 2007. This robot is based on the Roomba vacuum cleaning platform but is much more customizable and programmable. So, you can customize what the Create robot can do and add accessories or extra parts to it if you want to. The company frequently updates the Create’s features, with the latest being a whole new product called the Create 2, which allows users to utilize single-board computers like Raspberry Pi and Arduino.
The Root is basically another form of Create that is made for kids. This particular robot mainly teaches kids how to code and program basic movements on the robot. At first glance, the Root robot looks like a smaller Roomba but with more lights on its top. Although it is currently produced by iRobot, the Root robot was actually made by another company called Root Robotics. Fascinated with the features of the said robot, iRobot acquired Root Robotics in 2019.
Originally made by Evolution Robotics, the company acquired by iRobot in September 2012, the Braava (formerly called Mint) is a floor mopping robot that serves as a partner to the Roomba because of its similar features. The Braava robot utilizes disposable cleaning cloths for wet or dry cleaning, but iRobot later added a microfiber cleaning cloth with the product in order to reduce waste.
Although iRobot has stuck with its best-selling products for more than five years, the company is still trying to innovate what home robots can do. Their latest robot that is in development is Terra, which is supposed to be a robotic lawn mower that is capable of mapping out the measurements of the backyard for more efficient lawn mowing. After Terra, iRobot will surely develop more home robots with better features and technology in the future.