iRobot to sell police 'bots won in xBot lawsuit

Negotiator1.jpg

Photos: iRobot

If you'll recall, late last year iRobot accused a small company called Robotic FX, founded by a former iRobot employee, of stealing IP to create a competitor robot, the Negotiator, which looked suspiciously like an iRobot PackBot. The two machines were the subject of a disputed US $286 million Army contract and, later, a lawsuit.

In the end, iRobot prevailed. It won both the contract (called the xBot program) and the lawsuit (sort of: the two sides settled and Robotic FX was dissolved). Now iRobot is enjoying the fruits of its victory.

Negotiator2.jpg

Turns out the company is taking the Negotiator developed by the ill-fated Robotic FX and making it their own. The idea is to have a PackBot-like robot that is stripped down and cheaper for use by police departments and security firms. Wired's blog has the details:

Like Ahed did in his early days, iRobot will be marketing the Negotiator to police forces and other public safety departments around the country. One of the only major changes is where the things will be built: in India, instead of on the assembly lines of Ahed's still-unnamed defense contractor partner.

The new Negotiator will also be much cheaper than the early edition: $20,000 a pop, "about the cost of a squad car," notes iRobot executive Joe Dyer. It's also less than a quarter the price that Ahed (or iRobot) was going to give the military for its xBots. ... The xBots were supposed to handle bombs, with a mechanical arm. The new, joystick-driven Negotiator comes equipped with just a video camera -- so it'll be a cop's unmanned scout, and not much more.

The formal press release, which makes no mention of the previous dispute, is here.

Thanks, Rex!

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