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As reported in XConomy ... Bedford, Massachusetts-based iRobot (NASDAQ:IRBT) made headlines last month with the announcement of its recently created healthcare division, which is being headed by veteran software entrepreneur Tod Loofbourrow. The company’s ambitious plan is to develop a robot to help seniors live independently in their homes—something that no other company has accomplished. ..

... The senior citizen ... is the first demographic iRobot aims to serve with a healthcare robot. There could be tremendous value in a robot that could help seniors live at home and avoid nursing homes, Loofbourrow explained, noting that the average nursing home in Massachusetts costs about $10,000 a month...

... the leadership of iRobot decided that the time is right to launch a healthcare division, Loofbourrow said. The company has been interested in how its robots could be used to help patients for more than a decade. Indeed, company chairman and CEO Colin Angle told me back in 2006 that a robot for home healthcare was about three years from the market ... Healthcare could eventually become a major business for iRobot, which already has succeeded in introducing robots like the Roomba for the household market and the PackBot for the military market ... “The company sees an opportunity to really transform a market,” Loofbourrow said. “So I’m here to build a very big business and a third leg of the stool for iRobot.”...

... Loofbourrow said he doesn’t believe there will be much competition from other robotics firms in the home healthcare market. (It’s true that no companies have successfully launched a home healthcare robot for mainstream use, but plenty of companies such as MobileRobots of Amherst, MA, and Santa Barbara, CA-based InTouch Health make robots for use in hospitals.) ...

... Despite its relative successes with the Roomba vacuuming and Scooba mopping robots, the company decided to forgo a full commercial launch of its ConnectR—a robot that people can control from their PCs that offers video and audio to virtually visit with loved ones—after it didn’t gain enough interest from in consumers in a limited market release of the robot in 2008. However, the company may be the best positioned to move into the healthcare market because of its expertise in manufacturing and marketing home robotics...

“Healthcare is a funny market; it’s one of the markets in which who pays, who benefits, and who uses it could be three different people,” Loofbourrow said. “So to do something right in healthcare you need to have a holistic plan that addresses all three of those things.”...

Ryan McBride is Xconomy's correspondent for this story. You can reach him at rmcbride@xconomy.com, or follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/Ryan_McBride.
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