IRobot Grand Opening Pretty Grand

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the company had been looking for a couple hundred beta testers and more than 10,000 people volunteered. The company had launched a much bigger, kludgier version of the ConnectR back in 2000 or so. But he and Greiner explained it had not gone far: among other things, the robot had been priced too high and the Internet was much less evolved than it is now.

This time around, they have high hopes. Angle explained that rather than a broad-based advertising strategy, the company would target different markets—pet care, for instance, or staying in touch with families—with specific messages tailored to those markets. He said there might be different colors for the robots serving each market, blue for kids and families, orange for pets, perhaps. Angle said the company had not yet set a price, but that it would be “under $800.” He also would not be pinned down on a release date—even when I guessed the holidays—but he did say the robot would not have a “material impact” on iRobot’s bottom line in 2008. Look for the ConnectR to be a bigger deal for 2009, however.

iRobot CEO Colin Angle, chairman Helen Greiner, and Congressman John TierneyGreiner and I walked down the showcase aisle, which is flanked by devices from various points in iRobot’s history. One that seemed to hold a special place in Greiner’s heart was the 1995-era ROAMS. “This is the robot I brought to the original Special Forces demonstration,” she told me. That event, she said, led to some great feedback: the robot didn’t climb stairs, it couldn’t get up if fell over, it needed to be able to carry extra payloads. Greiner incorporated what she learned into a white paper that led directly to the PackBot tactical mobile robot, the foundation of iRobot’s military business.

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