IRobot is 'very interested' in creating technology that can kill covid-19: CEO
Colin Angle, iRobot co-Founder and CEO, joins Yahoo Finance's The First Trade to discuss how consumers are investing in at-home technology amid COVID-19. Angle also discusses future technology that iRobot is working on.
BRIAN SOZZI: Despite plans to reopen across the nation, many Americans are continuing to maintain social distance at home. But they are still investing a great deal in their homes to make them comfy. To discuss how people are in fact investing in their home and beyond is iRobot co-founder and CEO Colin Angle. Colin, good to see you this morning.
So we're off some of these quarters by some of the main home improvement chains, Home Depot, Lowe's, even a Best Buy, a lot of consumers are investing aggressively in their homes. Have you seen that at iRobot of late?
COLIN ANGLE: Well, we-- we have. Coming out of the first quarter, we were starting to see a very strong positive trend in-- in sell-through. And I think that people spending more time at home while at the same time having less time, particularly if they are caretakers for kids, trying to keep them organized, they actually need more home-- sorry, more help. And that's leading them to invest in their home. And they're not taking vacations. So there's definitely more disposable income that is in play here.
And so that-- you definitely have the recession which is diminishing overall customer spending. But in the consumer segment having to do with home improvement and home care, there are some bright spots.
ALEXIS CHRISTOFOUROS: Colin, I know that you have a whole bunch of different products, including a vacuum and sort of a mopping-like product. These products use solutions. Have you rejiggered things to work with companies to provide solutions in those products that could kill COVID-19?
COLIN ANGLE: That's a great question. And having the robots actually improve the health of the environment you're living in is a key priority. Getting certification that a particular fluid can kill COVID-19 is an involved process. But definitely, that's the direction we're very interested in. We have robots that are on the market today which are-- will take allergens out of the air, over 99% reduction or capture of allergens. And so it's a huge focus for iRobot. And it's going to take a little time, but it's where we're going.
BRIAN SOZZI: Colin, what doesn't a Roomba do now that it could do over the next couple of years?
COLIN ANGLE: So the direction that we're seeing in the marketplace is people have suddenly decided that, yes, robots are for real, and they work. And 25% of all money is spent on vacuums is now spent on robots. What they're asking for is more control. They want these robots to be better partners. They want to be able to say, well, I just made a spill, go clean that up or, you know, hey, can you clean when I leave because I really don't want the vacuum going off while I'm on the phone or watching television.
And the more these robots live in your home-- you know, right now they empty themselves. They can go months without you having to touch them. The more they're almost alive-- and if they annoy you and you shut it off, well, you almost killed it. You have to turn it back on and bring it back home and all of this stuff. So they want these robots to be more intelligent and be better partners. And over the next few years, that's what you're going to see in the marketplace, smarter robots.
ALEXIS CHRISTOFOUROS: What about innovation on your part, Colin? I know there's a lawnmower in the works right now. Give us an idea of what we can expect from iRobot in the coming months and years.
COLIN ANGLE: Well the lawnmower, unfortunately, got delayed because of COVID. We had to go and really focus. And we're putting our-- so much of our energy against this intelligence play. People are going to have to wait a little bit longer for the lawnmower. But the mops, the vacuums, and the intelligence and the directability, we're really trying to make our robots just trusted partners.
BRIAN SOZZI: Colin, I'm scrapping my last question. As someone who grew up mowing a ton of lawns every week, I just want to confirm. You are in fact-- I know you took the lawnmower off the market for now. But that's still on the plan? Do you plan to release that next year?
COLIN ANGLE: Oh, absolutely. Right, no there's no-- we haven't announced timing. But we need a robot lawnmower. Everyone knows it's-- it's-- it's probably the most asked for next product. So worry not.
BRIAN SOZZI: All right, let's-- let's leave it there. Colin Angle, co-founder and CEO of iRobot. Good luck on the lawnmower launch. And we'll talk to you soon.
COLIN ANGLE: Thank you so much.
BRIAN SOZZI: All right, apprecitate it.