Build Your Own Robot

IBM (NYSE: IBM  ) has embraced it, Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) is threatened by it, and some companies, including RedHat (Nasdaq: RHAT  ) and Novell (Nasdaq: NOVL  ) , have made it their primary focus. It's the open-source movement, and now another company, Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendation iRobot (Nasdaq: IRBT  ) , is seeking to apply the main principle of open source -- allowing users to view and modify one's software code -- to its own business.

Last week, the company announced the beta release of its iRobot Aware 2.0 Robot Intelligence Software. Significantly, this marks the first time iRobot has offered its software platform to third-party developers.

As with most open-source methods, there is an element of risk involved. It is possible that the developers who are invited to see and experiment with the software could seize the opportunity to learn more about the software platform, using it for their own ends without contributing anything in return to iRobot.

In my opinion, this risk is far outweighed by the immense opportunities the strategy promises. By opening up its software to developers, I believe it is more likely that these developers will become de facto researchers for iRobot and help create new capabilities for its robots.

For example, a developer with a keen interest in having robots perform dangerous or difficult underwater missions could hack the company's military robot, the PackBot, and upgrade it so it could perform its mission in the deep ocean.

To this end, the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR) is among the beta testers, and its officials have publicly stated that they are excited about figuring out new ways to integrate different payloads and behaviors onto iRobot platforms.

And that, in a nutshell, is the opportunity for iRobot. If it can successfully tap into the immense intellectual and creative capital -- which exists around the world in government research facilities, academic labs, and throughout the broader business community -- robots should soon be learning how to perform an exciting array of new things in increasingly complex and dynamic real world situations.

To the extent that these hackers are successful, it will be good news for both iRobot and its investors, because it will mean that the firm's bots will become the base platform for these new capabilities.

Interested in other robotic Foolishness?

Microsoft is aMotley Fool Inside Valuerecommendation. To find more top-shelf stocks at bargain-bin prices, sign up today for a free30-day guest pass.

Fool contributorJack Uldrichisn't interested in hacking a robot at this time, but would be interested if someone successfully programs a robot to shovel snow. Jack lives in Minnesota and owns stock in iRobot. The Fool has a strict disclosure policy.


Read/Post Comments (0) | Recommend This Article (3)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

Be the first one to comment on this article.

Sponsored Links

Leaked: Apple's Next Smart Device
(Warning, it may shock you)
The secret is out... experts are predicting 458 million of these types of devices will be sold per year. 1 hyper-growth company stands to rake in maximum profit - and it's NOT Apple. Show me Apple's new smart gizmo!

DocumentId: 517768, ~/Articles/ArticleHandler.aspx, 12/19/2014 5:21:53 AM

Report This Comment

Use this area to report a comment that you believe is in violation of the community guidelines. Our team will review the entry and take any appropriate action.

Sending report...


Advertisement