Robots eyed for elder care, bomb disposal

CORONADO, Calif..--Over the next few years, iRobot's primary customers could include the U.S. military and nursing homes.

The armed forces are already using iRobot's PackBots in Iraq to remotely detonate IEDs (improvised explosive devices). However, the overextended state of today's armed forces could require even more robot tools in the future, Colin Angle, CEO of iRobot, said at the Future in Review conference here.

iRobot is known primarily for the Roomba and the new Scooba cleaning robots, but it is eyeing a future that could include more military action, elder care, and even companionship, Angle said.

"Robots have an opportunity to address the conflict between our decreasing ability to care for the elderly and their increasing numbers," Angle said. Robots could do many basic jobs that would free up more people to provide hands-on care, and some robots might even be able to interact with elderly owners to remind them to take their medicine or monitor their vital signs.

Still, we're pretty far away from the robots of George Lucas' "Star Wars," Angle said. "I know how to build R2-D2, but I don't know how to build C-3PO at any finite cost," he said.

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    Tom Krazit writes about the ever-expanding world of Google, as the most prominent company on the Internet defends its search juggernaut while expanding into nearly anything it thinks possible. He has previously written about Apple, the traditional PC industry, and chip companies. E-mail Tom.

     

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