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Colin Angle, Advances in practical robotics

As part of his master’s thesis in computer science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Colin Angle created a six-legged autonomous walking robot called Genghis that is now at the Smithsonian National Air and Science Museum in Washington, D.C.  In 1990, Angle joined Helen Greiner and Rodney Brooks to start iRobot, a company with the vision of making practical robots a reality. Today, iRobot designs and builds robots ranging from household cleaning to extremely dangerous military and civil defense operations.

Robot has sold more than 10 million robots for home use since its inception. Its first, the Roomba vacuum cleaning robot, is an autonomous, disc-shaped vacuum that came to market in 2002. Priced from €329.99 to €799.99 depending on performance, the robot guides itself at the push of a button, backs off obstacles it encounters, and can fully clean a floor, under beds and furniture while its owner is away or asleep.

The company also sells the Scooba, which can simultaneously sweep, wash, scrub and dry hard floors; the Mirra robotic pool cleaner; the Looj, which unclogs and cleans gutters; and the Braava floor mopping robot.

Military and civil defense forces around the world have purchased more than 5,000 of the company’s tactical mobile robots. They include the SUGV (small unmanned ground vehicle) and PackBot, used to find and dispose of explosive devices, perform reconnaissance and other dangerous missions; the FirstLook, a small 5 pound, light throwable robot for infantry and special operations; and the 710, which can carry 150-pound payloads and lift more than 300 pounds. PackBot and 710 were also used to collect data, including radiation levels and temperatures inside the Fukushima nuclear power plant, following the near-meltdown there in 2011.


iRobot also has introduced two self-navigating remote presence robots to the hospital and enterprise markets. RP-VITA extends the reach of medical care by allowing doctors to communicate with patients from anywhere in the world. The Ava 500 video collaboration robot provide an alternative to long distance travel for busy executives byallowing for a more personal degree of collaboration via robot in today’s globally dispersed workplace.

The company also operates an educational outreach program designed to encourage students to study STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) subjects. In addition to classroom visits and other events, iRobot provides mentoring, career introduction and internships, all geared toward connecting students to the opportunities provided by a STEM education and occupation.

The company’s 2012 revenue was US$436 million. Angle serves as chairman of the board and chief executive officer.


Colin Angle, Advances in practical robotics

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