Forbes: Anatomy of a Robot Revolution
Anatomy Of A Robot Revolution: Tracing The Origins Of Intuitive Surgical And iRobot by Stephen Delaporte for Forbes:
"Two companies emerged from the entrepreneurial robot ashes of the “great robotic flameout of the 80s and 90s”—perhaps a title fitting enough to compliment the “AI Winter” period which had also ebbed and flowed throughout these same two decades.
These two robotics companies, which, in effect, shifted the entire industry into an advanced state with substantial forward momentum, are Intuitive Surgical—which today leads the surgical robotics market with its da Vinci surgical robot, that generates close to $3.5 billion in annual revenue and has a $64 billion market cap—and iRobot—which leads the consumer robotics market with its domestic cleaning robot Roomba, that now sells over one million units per year and generates close to $1 billion in annual revenue.
Remarkably, just about everything in the establishment of the modern-day robotics industry can also be linked back to Intuitive Surgical and iRobot, whether it be the roots of AI, the evolution of telepresence (along with the birth of the VR industry), the advancement of robotic arms and haptics, the emergence and use of lower cost sensors, the optimization of autonomous mobility, and even the development of the Mars rovers. In fact, a large part of the entire robotics startup ecosystem that exists today, as alluded to previously, can also be linked back directly to Intuitive Surgical and iRobot through both their founders and former employees who have gone on to found many of the other pioneering robotics companies of today. Looking at the history of these two companies is so vast with so many vital components that relate to the evolution of the rest of the industry, that to learn about their history, is to effectively learn about the entire history of robotics.
And while one company was mostly built on the west coast and the other was mostly built on the east coast, the parallels between both companies is compelling. Both companies were launched in 1990 (when considering Computer Motion’s merger with Intuitive). Both companies were initially funded by NASA and then DARPA. Both companies invented their core technologies between Stanford and MIT. Both companies spent the first 10 years of their operations with no real revenue and were in search of a specific application as they worked to refine their technology. Both companies launched what would become their signature products in the early 2000s. Both companies would be brought public in the early to mid-2000s and would each see a massive surge in their growth and stock prices beginning in 2016. Several of the key founding members of each of these companies, not surprisingly, also collaborated with each other at different points in time throughout their journeys."