There is an English proverb suggesting that necessity is the mother of invention. In the case of Mike Dooley, it was his mother’s necessity that drove his team’s invention. In the above interview, Dooley, CEO/Co-Founder of Labrador Systems, Inc., talks about the indoor robot that was inspired by his aging mom’s desire to not rely on others for everyday tasks.
This veteran of consumer robotic devices, such as iRobot vacuum cleaners, created the Labrador Retriever to do exactly what the name implies. As seen in the video, the Labrador Retriever can fetch drinks from a specially outfitted refrigerator or items from specially designed trays and bring them to the person that needs an extra hand.
It is not just to help people aging-in-place, but anyone who needs a free hand. Dooley cites the example of a woman with multiple sclerosis who can continue to use her arm-powered wheelchair, while the Labrador Retriever carries her food or laundry. Another use case is for those who have temporary needs, such as those who are on crutches.
Dooley indicates that they are looking at the Labrador Retriever as a service model with a price point in the $100 to $150 per month range. Although more expensive than its carpet-cleaning, drone cousins, this is an order of magnitude less expensive than the larger robots used in commercial operations.
Dooley makes the point that this helper will not replace but will be more of an augmentation of the human caregiver. In institutional settings, this could mean faster response to a patient’s request for a glass of water, for instance.
Institutions Need and Want the Retriever’s Help #
And institutions are getting on board, as evidenced by the November 3rd, 2022 announcement of the Retriever Pro version of their hardware. Their press release lists eight different organizations that will be receiving these units.
In a follow-up email, Dooley indicates that with the easing of pandemic restrictions, they were able to start testing with care providers. The strong interest resulting from those deployments spurred a shift in focus in 2022 to that market segment.
“With Covid restrictions easing as we got further into 2022, we were able to start testing with care providers with the pilot robots, which we really had not been able to before. The result was that we saw a really strong response from organizations that provide long term care, including those that provide care into the home.
That led to the Retriever Pro. The Pro will be at a higher monthly price point than what we offered for early consumer reservations and features more support and integration for multi-users, but it’s still more affordable than typical commercial robots. Our added focus with the Pro is really working with our customers to help reduce workload on their caregivers.
We are planning on doing select market tests with consumers as well, but just given the market demand and extreme shortage of caregivers, that will follow the roll-out of the Retriever Pro.
Even with this development, our mission is still about personal 1-on-1 support for individuals. That service model makes us different from other typical commercial robot companies – and gives us different economies of scale. As an example, just with our institutional customers we have reservations for hundreds of robots in a single metropolitan area, which is unprecedented.
We are really excited about how things have progressed on the business side, especially because I still see my mom’s needs in the individuals we’re supporting.”12/16/22 Email from Mike Dooley
The progress that Dooley and his colleagues have made since CES2022 surely must make a mother proud.