iRobot (IRBT) – Part 1 - Introduction

iRobot designs and develops residential, industrial, and defense (US Government) robots. Their products are marketed both organically and with other partners. Manufacturing is turnkey from China for their residential robots while US manufacturing is employed for defense robots as US defense contracts mandates it for their industrial and governmental robots.

iRobot was founded in 1990 by Colin Angle, Helen Greiner, and Dr. Rodney Brooks who were roboticists at Massaachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The initial robots were limited use special purpose robots which included the Genghis for extraterrestrial exploration and Ariel with crab-like legs that detected and eliminated mines in surf zones. The year 1998 proved to be defining for iRobot as it received a DARPA contract for the tactical mobile robot program which was responsible for the development of the PackBot. The PackBot had three major achievements in the 2001-2002 timeframe that ushered in popularity for the company in the robotics field:
  • September 2001 – Searched the rubble of the World Trade Center in New York City after the September 11th terrorist attacks.
  • June 2002 – Searched caves in Afghanistan for ammunition and hostile forces.
  • September 2002 – Searched the Great Pyramids of Egypt. The live event was televised globally.
The company entered the residential space with the introduction of Roomba - the vacuuming robot in September 2002. Sales of Roomba pushed one million units in the first 2 years. The 2nd generation Roomba (Discovery series) was introduced in 2004 and the Roomba 5-series in 2007.
iRobot has sold more than two million of their residential robots and 1200 of their industrial and governmental robots to date. Majority of their residential sales are for their Roomba vacuuming robots while on the industrial and governmental side, PackBot took the lead. The PackBot’s are installed in the war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Below is a summary of iRobot’s current residential products:






















Product Date Introduced Function Comments
Roomba 9/2002 Home Vacuuming Now in its 3rd generation, Roomba vacuums all types of floors, has intelligence to navigate rooms, avoid getting stuck or falling, and self-dock.
Scooba 5/2005 Floor Washer Takes in a cleaning solution and uses it to prep, wash, scrub, and dry hardwood floors.
Dirt Dog 9/2006 Garage/Workshop/Patio Cleaner A vacuum-less technology suited for rough surfaces. It is designed to pick up woodchips, nuts, bolts, etc. using high speed counter rotating brushes.
Verro 4/2007 Pool Cleaner Cleans pool floors, walls, and stairs. Runs on 24V motor. Cleaning takes about an hour.
Looj 9/2007 Gutter Cleaner Cleans K-style, aluminum, vinyl, or metal gutters. Cleans a 60-foot section in about 10 minutes. It operates using a 7.2V nickel-cadmium rechargeable battery.


Below is a summary of iRobot’s current industrial/governmental products:
















Product Date Introduced Function Comments
PackBot 9/2001 Military Missions Flexible payload allows for varied missions. Payload ports are equipped with Ethernet, USB, power, and 2 video ports. Portability and ease-of-use allows a single person to control multiple robots.
R-Gator 10/2004 Unmanned mission vehicle with manual override Designed for Perimeter Petrol, Resupply, Route Clearance, and Surveillance/Reconnaissance.
PackBot 510 2/2007 Military Missions 2nd generation PackBot that is 30% faster. Able to lift 30 pounds but still portable and deployable by a single person.


The pace of new product introductions accelerated in 2007. The indication from the company supports this trend of using common technology for products serving different purposes.

Related Posts:

1. iRobot (IRBT) - Part 1 - Introduction.
2. iRobot (IRBT) - Part 2 - Business Issues.
3. iRobot (IRBT) - Part 3 - Outlook.

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