Whether you need to measure radiation levels, go into battle, or clean the living room rug, IRobot Corp. apparently has the gizmo for you. The LA Times profiles the Roomba vacuum maker and sees its success as a sign that the robot industry "is becoming more mainstream." So-called home robots—mostly those Roombas—made up 55% of the Massachusetts company's $401 million revenue stream in 2010.
But IRobot also has sent machines to Japan to sniff out radiation, to Afghanistan to find bombs, and to the Gulf of Mexico to locate oil-contaminated waters. This week's Navy contract for bomb-disposal robots sent shares up 13%. "No one has ever made money with robots before," said IRobot's CEO. "But ours create more value than they cost to build." (Even if Consumer Reports isn't impressed with Roomba's vaccuuming skills.) Coming up is a Jetson-esque droid that works with tablet computers to help seniors navigate their homes. Her name is Ava.