To add some perspective here: iRobot is not the only company in that space. Foster-Miller has also cashed in for their Talon robots (see pic above):
Foster-Miller Inc. of Waltham has been awarded $58.5 million in funding for additional Talon military robots and replacement parts, its parent company, QinetiQ North America, said today.
The total represents awards from the US Army and Navy made during the six-month period from May 1 to Nov. 1, the company said.
The company added in a press release: "A total of 2,500 Talon robots are now deployed around the world, with a significant number of them in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are used primarily to assist military personnel with the extremely dangerous job of detecting and disabling roadside bombs – the Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) planted by hostile forces to attack troops. Talon robots have been used in more than 100,000 counter-IED missions to date."
(Source: Boston Globe
and Foster-Miller press release
For me the critical point does not seem to be how smaller companies could compete with iRobot or Foster-Miller - that same question could be asked for all large companies and yet all large companies started out small.
What has me thinking is the incredible amount of funding poured into this area of robotics and the ethical consequences of this development.
I suggest we all hope for an upcoming podcast episode on that topic!