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At Irobot, Moving Way Beyond the Roomba

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Unmanned Ground Vehicle robot

At iRobot headquarters, Bedford, MA, a Small Unmanned Ground Vehicle robot tries to climb a wooden platform.

Daniel Terdiman / CNET

I have seen the future of military robotics, and it is autonomy.

I've come here to visit the headquarters of iRobot, the company probably best known for its famous Roomba vacuum cleaners. But while it has sold more than 5 million of those cute household devices, it has also developed a reputation as one of the world's leaders in designing battlefield-ready robots capable of things like detecting and extracting explosive devices, search-and-rescue, and much more.

And though iRobot could probably rest on its laurels, and keep making profits for the foreseeable future with the Roomba and military-grade robots like the PackBot or the SUGV—the small unmanned ground vehicle—it is at the same time looking to set the pace for the robots that will man—so to speak—the battlefields of the future.

Naturally, iRobot is also looking for ways to advance its home consumer line of robots, and in that realm, it believes its path to down-the-road profits will depend heavily on health care and care giving.

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