Can the Leader of Robotics Maintain Its Edge?

Can the Leader of Robotics Maintain Its Edge?

The Fool heads out to Vegas to check out the 2014 International Consumer Electronics Show. With more than 3200 exhibitors, including 88% of the top retailers in consumer electronics, the CES is the place to be to see what's coming up in tech.

iRobot pioneered the robotic vacuum cleaner space, introducing Roomba in 2002. Twelve years later, the line has expanded to mopping, scrubbing, and even a gutter-cleaning robot.

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A full transcript follows the video.

Austin Smith: Hey, Fools, Austin Smith here at the iRobot booth at CES, here to talk about some of the new robot designs that we're seeing out of this company now.

iRobot is a company that's been of a lot of interest to our readers. You guys have really reinvented yourselves, just expanding beyond the traditional Roomba robots over the last few years. I'm wondering if you could talk a little bit about the new products that you guys have launched recently, what they do, and what the interest level has been.

iRobot: Sure, absolutely. We started the category of robotic vacuum cleaners with the Roomba, as you suggested. That was in 2002, so we've come a long ways in 12 years.

For instance, this year we introduced something brand-new; a complete overhaul of a floor scrubbing robot. We're really excited about this. It actually will sweep up debris, it will put water down on your floor, scrub your floor, really get in there with the elbow grease. If you do a lot of cooking, trying to keep up with your kids, it's a great way to keep those floors really clean on a daily basis. That's something that's really exciting.

We've also expanded into the mopping realm, too, with a brand-new product we call Braava, which is over on this side. That uses cloth like Swiffer; a nice way to keep your hard woods nice and shiny throughout the day, throughout the week.

We've expanded into things such as even a Looj, here, which cleans out gutters. It's a dangerous job getting up and down that ladder, trying to clean out the gutter.

We've really been pushing; everything we've learned from the Roomba, trying to expand it into other types of jobs that people either don't want to do -- maybe they're dangerous, dirty, dull -- and we really extended that whole idea to a variety of different tasks within the home or around the home.

Smith: Now, you guys really pioneered the category of the home robot vacuum cleaner. It looks like you guys have some new competition in that space over the last few years; still clearly the industry leader, but as you guys expand into these different robots, and as you get more competitors coming in, I'm wondering what are the iRobot competitive advantages over these other competitors that we're seeing, like maybe an LG? We saw some home vacuums earlier on the show here.

iRobot: Yeah, great. As we mentioned here, in 2002 we started. I know, when you talk to the founder or you talk to the people who have been around for a long time, one of the early challenges was, when you do something for the first time, "Does that actually work?" -- these kinds of questions.

As we've gotten better at making robots, we've had years and years of experience here. I think that alone -- just the expertise across various different types of robotics. We have a lot of experience in very dangerous and complicated situations -- for defense applications, for research robotics -- so we really have this breadth of knowledge that we apply to all of our robotics. That is, by far, the biggest advantage we have.

As we talk about competition, that we mentioned, as we've tried to convince people that this is a really great way to clean your home -- for example, with a Roomba -- competition actually kind of helps us, in a way. It starts to legitimize this a bit. People see more of it and say, "Huh, OK. This is a real thing."

As our name gets out there, people get more comfortable with iRobot, with Roomba, and more people say, "Hey, this is really great." It only helps to further our cause, too.

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Austin Smith has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends iRobot. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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Originally published