Robot manufacturer iRobot announced on Thursday that they would be selling off their military line of robots to Arlington Capital Partners to be spun off into a new company, in order to better focus on the growing market for home robotics.
iRobot is famous for its home cleaning robot, the Roomba, as well as the PackBot — robots which are used in war or hazardous zones for bomb disposal or chemical testing. iRobot will be selling off their Defence & Securities division to Arlington Capital Partners for up to $US45 ($64), a deal which is expected to close in a couple of months.
According to the company, the shift is a strategic one that will allow them to focus more on the growing home market:
iRobot sees significant growth opportunities in the consumer robotic technology market, particularly in light of the successful Roomba 980 launch and the potential presented by the connected smart home. With 14 million robots in people’s homes today and the leading market share within the robotic floor care segment, iRobot has revolutionised the way people clean. The divestiture of the Defence & Security business will allow us to focus on the Home Robots business, bring new products to market, continue our expansion in China and build upon successful new marketing campaigns. We are confident that our strategy of focusing on the home will position iRobot for continued growth and success.
During the earnings call, iRobot CEO Colin Angle noted that the company’s revenue is increasingly coming from their home robot side of the house and that after working with a consulting firm, iRobot executives decided that the future lies in the home, rather than with the military.
It also goes a long way for the company in PR terms: the company has experimented with arming their PackBots for the military, and being a company known to sell cute vacuum cleaners rather than a company that sells cute vacuum cleaners AND robots found on the front lines will certainly help their image. It also makes sense: with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wound down from their peaks almost a decade ago, the demand for military robotics has slipped.
Hopefully the new Roombas will come with a Three Laws guarantee.
Image credit: iRobot