Feeds

Vacuum king calls for end to robotics hype

Time to move from suck to blow

Application security programs and practises

Despite being surrounded by lucrative military contracts, iRobot has not proved that tempting to investors. Shares of iRobot managed to creep near the $40 mark following its IPO late last year but have slid down to $24.74. That leaves the vacuum maker with a market cap of $580m. Angle hopes that iRobot or even another company can zoom to greater heights.

"I get annoyed not by competition but by entrepreneurs with no imagination," he told us. "I don't want to be the only robot company of substance out there.

"There isn't a billion dollar robot company yet, but there will be."

iRobot has remained fairly secretive about what it will dish out for consumers next. Angle, however, did say that the company will focus on more devices than can do chores around the house. Mowing the lawn, washing the dog, cleaning the toilet - those kinds of things.

In addition, iRobot plans to whip up more robots for the military, keeping our war machine as automated as possible.

Looking longer-term, Angle does have a tendency to fall into the same traps as his peers.

During his speech, he rolled out an old video where a robot comes into a kid's bedroom to help a doctor perform a remote rash diagnosis. A mother lifts her child's top, while the doctor peers in from afar and recommends some lotion. It's touching stuff - at least to Angle.

"In a strange way, robots are rehumainzing that whole aspect of our life where doctors used to make house calls," he said. "A kid might actually grow up thinking that was a doctor."

We're not sure that a robot can rehumanize anything, and we doubt that maids see the rehumanizing aspect of a Roomba. Still, we get where Angle is going.

For those with elderly parents, Angle suggests the possibility of a senior bot - a type of creature that can go check on mum or dad when they haven't answered the phone in a couple of days. The bot could cruise around your parents' house and find them, as you had hoped, on a two-day hunt for the sugar instead of slumped over the table, putting your mind at ease. Perhaps you could also do remote checks of your parents' stool samples as part of a disturbing Freudian revenge plot.

How much would such a robot be worth? Angle reckons that the device would be attractive to a lot of people at $1,000 or less.

Away from the military gear, iRobot seems in a tough spot. Angle paints the idea of creating another successful house helper an easy task. We, however, have our doubts.

The Roomba hit a sweet-spot stretching from yuppie sideshow attraction to yuppie practical device.

The damn thing actually works pretty well. My mother-in-law and her dogs can confirm this. Well off lass that she is, Judy has complemented her maids that come every couple of days with a Roomba that can clean up after the black labs all week. You won't read about this happening too often in Mongolia, but in suburban St. Louis it actually seems normal.

Angle thinks that pushing the Roomba beyond the yuppie fringe is just a matter of "getting the word out." That's an over-simplification in our opinion. And we think selling a $200 robotic toilet cleaner or vapoorizer will be even tougher.

Angle and his team seem like the rare group that can live in a land of make believe while keeping their eye on practicality. It's this combination of skills that will be required for iRobot to dish out another banner success.

For the moment, the robotics industry needs iRobot to have a couple more "Roomba moments." These companies need a champion and someone who can speak with authority on how to keep them focused.

"If I can speed things up, it's good for iRobot and good for the other entrepreneurs," Angle said. ®

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
Just TWO climate committee MPs contradict IPCC: The two with SCIENCE degrees
'Greenhouse effect is real, but as for the rest of it ...'
BEST BATTERY EVER: All lithium, all the time, plus a dash of carbon nano-stuff
We have found the Holy Grail (of batteries) - boffins
Asteroid's DINO KILLING SPREE just bad luck – boffins
Sauricide WASN'T inevitable, reckon scientists
Flamewars in SPAAACE: cooler fires hint at energy efficiency
Experiment aboard ISS shows we should all chill out for cleaner engines
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
Famous 'Dish' radio telescope to be emptied in budget crisis: CSIRO
Radio astronomy suffering to protect Square Kilometre Array
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable
Learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.