The ConnectR prototype was iRobot’s first attempt at a telepresence robot. Based on sibling robot Roomba’s design, ConnectR featured two high-resolution video cameras along with a two-way audio system, and the capability to control the robot remotely. It was iRobot’s first attempt manufacturing a highly-technical, connected robot and they needed someone who understood the challenges in preparing a connected product for mass production. How would they ensure the manufacturer they chose was efficiently, consistently producing a quality product for their customers? iRobot hired Brian Geisel for his extensive experience taking products from concept to commercialization to spearhead the project.
Geisel developed a built-in test for ConnectR that allowed the manufacturer to run through a sequence of tests to ensure every system on the robot was functioning correctly. The complexity of the product required a comprehensive series of challenges that evaluated the entire robot. Were all the wheels operable? Were the video feeds functioning properly? Was the WIFI working? And so on.After the series of tests was complete, the robot would then send a message to a server that Geisel deployed on the factory floor indicating that the robot had passed or failed. If the robot passed, it would be shipped; if it failed, it would not. If a faulty robot was returned to iRobot, an audit on the returned unit could be conducted to determine if the robot had failed inspection at the manufacturing facility or if the defect happened after the unit left the factory. This would allow iRobot to quickly identify where a problem was occurring and correct it.
The process of building millions of connected devices requires a unique mindset. Geisel was able to enhance iRobot’s manufacturing process with a dynamic system for testing the complex robot, ConnectR. While iRobot eventually decided not to ship ConnectR, the company implemented Geisel’s solution into subsequent projects and eventually shipped their first autonomous telepresence robot, Ava.