Colin Angle: iRobot CEO | Lex Fridman Podcast #39


We need robots to helps us continue to improve our standard of living. The average age of humanity is increasing very quickly. The number of people young enough to care for the older demographic is inadequate. [3:55]

Today the role of robots is to make our lives a little easier, cleaner, healthier. But in time, robots will be the difference between a decline in our ability to live independently, and a future where we have more control of our lives. [4:24]

iRobot has narrowed its focus to the home as a place where we want to innovate. We want to deliver tools that will help a home be a more automatically maintained place. A healthier place. Today we vacuum and mop. Soon we will be mowing your lawn. [6:01]

The direction iRobot is working towards: The robot is supposed to be your partner. Not just this automaton that goes and does what a robot does. [10:31]

Example: If you tell the robot, “I just dropped some flour next to the fridge in the kitchen. Can you go deal with it?” Wouldn’t it be awesome if the right thing just happens based on that utterance? [10:35]

[To accomplish that] The robot would have to listen to you. Understand the context of the sentence. Map it against its understanding of the home it lives in, and know what to do. [10:47]

Before Roomba I was a high tech entrepreneur building robots. It wasn’t until I became a vacuum cleaner salesman that we had any success. The point is technology alone doesn’t equal a successful business. You have to find the compelling need. [14:32]

We are just about none of the way to achieving what the potential of robots could be. [17:17]

I expect there to be at least one iRobot robot in every home one day. We have sold 25 million robots. We are in about 10% of home in the US. That’s a great start. [26:50]

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