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What: Shares of iRobot (NASDAQ: IRBT ) were up by nearly 10% today, after reports emerged that the FDA had cleared the company's robotic telepresence 'bot for hospital use.
So what: iRobot and partner InTouch Health have been developing the RP-VITA remote presence robot, which looks very much like an iPad on a postmodern pedestal, for some time. This partnership was unveiled about six months ago, so this is a relatively quick approval by FDA standards. Of course, since the robot isn't going to be slicing up spleens or dispensing medication, there's very little risk of patient harm. RP-VITA will be able to navigate hospitals independently using advanced mapping and sensing technology, and InTouch will sell it as its new flagship telemedicine 'bot.
Now what: InTouch already has its existing telemedicine 'bots in more than 600 hospitals around the world, so iRobot has itself a worthwhile partner. It's not known what the revenue split will be on this project between InTouch and iRobot, but if we assume a roughly equal split, and use the available numbers reported in Slashgear -- between $4,000 and $6,000 per month to operate -- then iRobot has a potential upside right now of about $18 million in annual revenue. That's about 4% of iRobot's trailing 12-month revenue. It's not much, but it's a good start. Today's jump simply represents the heightened expectations now placed on iRobot as it transitions into new and potentially lucrative environments.