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The Pransky interview: Dr Paolo Pirjanian, CTO of iRobot Corporation

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Purpose ‐ PhD/inventor builds consumer robot start-up company based on low-cost, groundbreaking visual simultaneous localization and mapping (vSLAM) visual sensors and NorthStar® navigation technologies that sells for nearly $75 million dollars 12 years later. The following article is a "Q&A interview" conducted by Joanne Pransky of Industrial Robot Journal as a method to impart the combined technological, business, and personal experience of a prominent, robotic industry engineer-turned entrepreneur regarding the evolution, commercialization, and challenges of bringing a technological invention to market. The paper aims to discuss these issues. Design/methodology/approach ‐ This interview was with Dr Paolo Pirjanian, CTO of iRobot Corporation. Dr Pirjanian previously served as both CTO and CEO of Evolution Robotics. Dr Pirjanian received his PhD degree from Aalborg University, Denmark. He has received several honors and awards including the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society Early Career Award in 2004 and the Technical Leadership Award from JPL/NASA. Dr Pirjanian holds 67 patents. Findings ‐ The challenges and solutions of transferring technological innovations into an affordable consumer product are presented. The resulting pioneering technologies and approximate 37 patents around vSLAM and NorthStar® were incorporated into Evolution's flagship consumer product, Mint floor cleaning robot. In October 2012, iRobot Corp acquired Evolution for $74 million in an effort to complement their own products and technologies. Originality/value ‐ A robot scientist, in his roles as the CTO and CEO of a robot company, uses a paradigm shift in vision and pattern recognition to build an affordable consumer product and successful company.
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Keywords: Localisation; Mobile robots; Navigation; Robot vision; SLAM; Service robots

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 14, 2014

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