Mobile Robots Take on New Chores

Wireless links and cheap processing power make mobile robots increasingly practical for industry and public-safety applications.

Wireless links and cheap processing power make mobile robots increasingly practical for industry and public-safety applications.

Originally inspired by the fictional R2-D2 "droid" of the "Star Wars" movies, iRobot co-founder Helen Greiner now equips U.S. troops in Iraq with battlefield-grade PackBot units that can be thrown through a window to explore a potentially booby-trapped building.

Using technologies shared with the companys consumer-sector Roomba vacuum cleaner, the $45,000 PackBot appeared in a video accompanying Greiners keynote speech at the OReilly Emerging Technology Conference this month in San Diego.