iRobot is most famous for its line of consumer robots designed to vacuum and wash your floors, but the company also has a second business providing tough-as-nails robots to police and military.
These robots go directly into harm’s way to scout unfamiliar territory, handle dangerous objects, and even deactivate bombs, all while keeping their human operators a safe distance away.
Althought these bots present only account for about 10% of iRobot’s business, you’ll soon see that the company has as much commitment to building tough tools for the military as it does to building cute domestic robots that keep your floors clean for you.
FirstLook is iRobot's most portable offering, weighing only five pounds and easily fitting into a backpack. Tim Trainer, iRobot's VP of Product Management for Defence and Security, told us 'It plays like a game,' said Trainer. 'You steer it with an XBOX controller, and my son's much better at it than I am.'
FirstLook is designed to be thrown into out-of-reach places -- over a wall, through a window -- to send back video of what's going on in unfamiliar territory. Throwing probably doesn't strike you as the safest way to deploy a robot, but this thing can safely sustain a 15-foot drop onto concrete.
Once inside the location, the robot is smart enough to right itself with its flippers no matter how it lands, ready to receive instructions and send back video from its four-camera 360-degree view.
510 PackBot is a 24-pound all-weather robot that's a good deal larger than First Look, but that's only because it's rather loaded out with capabilities. It's an expandable robot, which means it can be outfitted with a number of extras to make it especially useful in specific scenarios, alternately being equipped for disposing of a bomb, surveillance and reconnaissance, and even hazardous material detection.
PackBot can hit a top speed of 5.8 miles per hour and its treads are handy enough to navigate rubble, and even stairs. The battery runs for several hours per charge to make sure the robot stays useful throughout a longer mission.
'SUGV' (pronounced 'suhg-vee') stands for Small Unmanned Ground Vehicle. You might consider SUGV a scaled-down counterpart to PackBot -- it's a 30-pound robot small enough to be carried around in a backpack, but tough enough that it's seen use for all kinds of things.
Its arm, certainly not as strong as the much larger Warrior's, carries up to 15 pounds and is surprisingly dexterous -- an iRobot marketing video shows SUGV removing the cap from a car tire's valve stem, then depressing it and manually deflating the tire.
It wirelessly sends video back to the operator from up to 1,000 meters away, who receives the video in a Google Glass-like wearable display (it also makes use of an XBOX controller for much more intuitive control).
This is a heavy lifting robot for carrying larger-than-usual payloads. It's got a pretty fearsome arm that's strong enough to lift up to 220 pounds and has a vertical reach of 11.5 feet. With a camera on the end of this arm, it's indispensable for peeking into tight, tall spaces.
At 385 pounds, it's iRobot's largest defence bot, but don't let this fool you into thinking it's not nimble. It can climb stairs at a 45-degree angle, roll through water a foot and a half deep, and cross three-foot gaps with help form its arm. It hits an 8 mph top speed and can even recover from rollovers.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.