Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
- This article is about the robotics company. For the film, see I, Robot (movie).
The iRobot Corporation, based in Burlington, Massachusetts, is a private corporation and major designer of robotic devices for businesses, homes, and institutions. IRobot's best known product is the Roomba, an automatic home vacuum cleaner. The company also makes a line of PackBots, robots for use with bomb squads, SWAT teams or the Military. The three iRobot founders – Rodney Brooks, Colin Angle and Helen Griener – were inspired to found the company after working in MIT's artificial intelligence lab. Rodney Brooks is currently the director of the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.
IRobot's Roomba's release in 2002. Since Roomba's successful launch into the home robotics market other companies have launched their own automatic vacuum cleaners, including Sharper Image's eVac.
In 2000, iRobot moved into the toy business with "My Real Baby." This product is a highly realistic doll which uses animatronic facial expressions. The doll started out as a emotionally expressive and responsive robot called "IT." The finalized My Real Baby was made in a partnership with Hasbro, and is no longer in production. The following is an excerpt from iRobot's page about the evolution of "IT" into My Real Baby:
- "...IT was the first emotionally-expressive, emotionally-responsive robot, built in 1995. “IT” featured a very mechanical-looking face, and robot arms. "IT" loved shaking hands with people, and would smile and ham it up for anyone taking his picture. "IT," however, would get frightened if you got too close to him and would actively try to avoid having light shined in his eyes....[BIT] was created the next year, and featured the first use of simulated facial muscles to make him smile, frown, and cry. "BIT" was designed using the Behavior Language to be just like a real baby, and although he could not sense people touching him, he could tell if he was upside-down (which he didn’t like), or right-side up (which he did like)....When Hasbro and iRobot began collaborating in 1998, the MY REAL BABY doll was the first toy the two companies decided to develop together – quite literally, the "first-born." Hasbro saw in "BIT" the foundation for an amazing toy, but much work needed to be done to turn "BIT" into a toy that children everywhere would love to play with..."
Commercial and military robotics
iRobot has an extensive line of robots designed for use in military or policing function.
- Genghis (1990) is iRobot's first robot. It was designed as a test platform for researchers. The robot is currently at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum
- Ariel (1996) is a crab like robot designed to remove mines (in and out of water).
- Urbie (1997) was a proof of concept robot designed for urban environments. The platform was designed with two tank-like tracks so it could climb stairs.
- PackBot Scout is a rugged military surveillance robot which is designed to be deployed by a single soldier to investigate areas which may be dangerous or inaccessible. Using a still camera the robot beams images back to the controller. The robot has been used in both Iraq and Afghanistan. PackBot research is supported by DARPA.
- PackBot Explorer is an advanced Scout with sound, live video feed and other sensors. The robot is designed for investigating hostage situations or surveying battle damage.
- Swarm is an artificial intelligence research project designed to develop algorithms for swarms of hundreds of individual robots. This project is sponsored by DARPA.
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