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9/3/2008
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iRobot Founder Rodney Brooks Launches Robotics Startup

The robotics pioneer is leaving his posts at MIT and iRobot to start Heartland Robotics, with the goal of using robots to improve worker productivity.

Believing that the nascent robotics industry is about to take off, robotics pioneer Rodney Brooks is leaving his post at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and at iRobot, the company he co-founded, to start a new company that will use robots to make U.S. workers more productive.

With iRobot firmly launched in military and commercial markets and MIT at the forefront of robotics, Brooks is founding a new company called Heartland Robotics. He's not cutting his past ties completely, however, as he will remain on iRobot's board and is taking a leave of absence from MIT.

He believes the time is now ripe for robotics to take off and he believes the Boston area has been thoroughly seeded with robotics startups.

"From virtually no mobile robots deployed anywhere in the world six years ago we now have thousands on active duty in the U.S. military and millions cleaning the floors of American homes," Brooks said recently. "This is the lead-up to a classic hockey-stick growth curve."

"Just as computers we interact with personally transformed our lives over the last 25 years, so, too, will robots transform our lives over the coming 25. And it just so happens that Massachusetts is the epicenter of this nascent industry," he continued.

The Boston Globe reported that Brooks said his new Heartland Robotics startup will seek to help "American workers be more productive through the use of robots." Beyond that, details on the startup are scarce, because the company removed its Web site from the Internet.

Just this week, iRobot reported that it received a contract valued at up to $200 million for gear and service for its PackBot robots. The company has sold millions of its Roomba vacuum cleaning robots. Other iRobot devices range from swimming pool cleaners to small robots designed for use by public safety officials that can climb stairs and detect chemicals.

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