The Ava robot can take you to aisle 9

iRobot reorganizes and creates a business unit for its tablet-sporting Ava pedestal robot in retail, security, and health care.

Virtual bed-side manner. iRobot is trying to get its Ava pedestal robot approved for use in hospitals for telemedicine.
Virtual bed-side manner. iRobot is trying to get its Ava pedestal robot approved for use in hospitals for telemedicine.Photo by iRobot

Robotics company iRobot has reorganized to better focus on bringing its Ava pedestal robot to new places, including hospitals and stores.

The company yesterday created a new business unit around Ava and named Joe Dyer as its chief strategy officer tasked with finding new markets for iRobot's products. Jeff Beck, the former head of the home robotics division that makes the Roomba vacuum, was promoted to chief operating officer.

The changes are geared toward letting iRobot move into new business areas with its existing products and Ava, said CEO Colin Angle. iRobot makes a good part of its revenue from the military, but the budget in the coming year is uncertain, he said.

iRobot is trying to move into health care, security, and retail with Ava, which will be tested with partners later this year, Angle said.

Ava can move autonomously through buildings at human walking speed and has a tablet computer at its top as a user interface.

AvaPhoto by iRobot

In a store, Ava could let consumers do comparison shopping and look at reviews online and still be able to pick up products and purchase them immediately. "Brick and mortar retail is increasingly needing to figure out better and more informed shopping experiences to better compete with online," Angle said.

In security, Ava will be able to operate autonomously by using a map of a building for patrol. iRobot invested in health care company InTouch Health to provide telemedicine services.

iRobot is also eager to use its existing platforms, such as its home-cleaning robots and its mini-tank-like ground robots used in the military in different industries.

The company tomorrow is expected to announce a partnership with Texas Instruments to optimize its software to run on TI's embedded processors, which should make robots run more efficiently and lower their costs, Angle said.