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iRobot may send its Ava 'bot to medical school

iRobot invests $6 million in InTouch Health to test its robots, including Ava, for use in telemedicine and assisted care at healthcare facilities.

iRobot's Ava.

Robotics company iRobot today invested in a telemedicine provider to expand into the health care industry.

iRobot said the $6 million stake in InTouch Health, which makes remote presence devices and software designed to let caregivers provide patient care remotely.

With the investment, the two companies will test out iRobot's robots for telemedicine--including iRobot's Ava, which operates on a pedestal and uses a tablet computer for a user interface. The companies expect to use the Ava platform "for remote healthcare and assistive technologies for the elderly," iRobot CEO Colin Angle said in a statement.

With aging populations in many countries, robotics companies expect telemedicine and in-home robots to address a growing need for healthcare. Last year, iRobot and InTouch Health announced a partnership to develop applications for InTouch Health's systems, which are used in 400 hospitals and are FDA approved.

The Ava platform, which iRobot has shown at the Consumer Electronics show the past two years, is able to move autonomously by using sensors and work with different tablets, including the iPad and Android tablets. In addition to health care, the company envisions it can be used as a mobile kiosk in stores, provide building security, or assist office workers for videoconferencing.