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Roomba Robotic Floorvac Surpasses 1 Million in Sales
Oct 26, 2004
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Vacuum manufacturer iRobot announced that it has sold more than 1 million Roomba(R) Robotic Floorvacs. Based on the vacuum's success, the company believes a burgeoning number of robotics innovators have been inspired to move beyond the primarily theoretical applications to which robots had previously been consigned.

"The $200 mobile robotic vacuum cleaners and other such devices that are making their way into the consumer world, signal the beginnings of the development of a new industry focused on cost-effective mobile devices that can assist and entertain us in a variety of ways," said Neena Buck of Strategy Analytics, whose report "Mobile Service Robots: Entering the Commercial World," was included in the 2004 World Robotics study created by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe.

According to Ms. Buck, iRobot is the leading example of a company that has funneled its DARPA-funded projects into an appropriate consumer product using off-the-shelf parts. DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, is the central research and development organization for the U.S. Department of Defense and pursues research and technology where risk and payoff are both very high and where success may provide dramatic advances.

In its new 2004 study, the U.N. cited the "huge market potential" of robots for domestic tasks and noted that "the idea behind robotic domestic devices is to liberate people from unpleasant daily chores and give them more free time." In an earlier report, the United Nations Economic Commission forecast sales of vacuum cleaning robots would reach 400,000 units by 2006, and Roomba says it exceeded that number two years earlier than predicted.

"iRobot has robots deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq helping our [U.S.] troops by destroying bombs," said Helen Greiner, iRobot's chairman. "We learned a lot about reliability and quality by working on robots that can survive in combat. This type of experience prepared us to deliver robots that survive in unpredictable home settings."

Roomba is designed with an infrared sensor that is said to allow it to follow walls and avoid falling down stairs, wheel-drop sensors that stop Roomba when it is lifted, and a bump sensor that keeps it from interfering with furniture and other objects on the floor. The robotic vacuum also reportedly cleans with less power, utilizing a flapper and brush system to pick up large particulate and a high-velocity nozzle that suctions-up small particles like dust.

The latest Roomba Discovery and Roomba Red models add an advanced cleaning system called Dirt Detect(TM) that is said to sense particularly dirty areas and tells the robot to concentrate on that area until it is clean.

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