How iRobot Could Cash In on Machine Learning

Artificial intelligence and machine learning tech have been getting exponentially more sophisticated in the past few years, and they're on pace to do so even more in the future.

In this Industry Focus: Tech segment, our Motley Fool analysts go over a few things that investors should consider when they're looking into AI companies, and then they explain why iRobot (NASDAQ: IRBT) is one consumer-facing AI company that investors will want to look into for some exposure to this exciting space.

A full transcript follows the video.

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This video was recorded on Jan. 5, 2018.

Dylan Lewis: There's so many different applications of this. It's such a wildly transformative technology. You have language processing, you have self-driving cars, you have drones, you have automation and manufacturing, and that seems to be kind of just the tip of the iceberg. We've mentioned Google a ton. I think a lot of people are familiar with some of their AI ambitions. And really, one of the watershed moments for them was their DeepMind project with Alpha Go, basically them creating this AI program that mastered this ancient board game and had it wind up beating the best in the world at this game. That was kind of a wow, big stamp of validation for what they had been working on. There are a lot of other companies in this space that are trying to develop this type of technology. Who else are you watching here?

Eric Bleeker: I think one of the important things to remember is, I believe artificial intelligence becomes a foundational technology across which all companies are based. It's similar to the internet and similar to mobile. So you can go back and look at the internet. Microsoft wasn't really an internet company, they built an operating system. Oracle wasn't an internet company, they built databases. But what the internet did enabled them to grow at exponential rates. So, I think we're looking at a very similar thing with artificial intelligence right now. You need to cast a somewhat wide net. A similar idea to this would be, when you looked at the beginning of the mobile age, if you just said Google and Apple, you're limiting yourself. And they were the most obvious because they built the phones. But if you understood what mobile meant to the future of media, you could have had a better chance of finding Netflix, which return significantly, tenfold, larger. You could have seen what it would do to e-commerce. And let's not just think about Amazon, let's think about MercadoLibre. Do you have some?

Lewis: The primary impact there is, people are going to be buying phones. That's the mobile revolution. But the tack-on to it is accessibility, and ability for platforms to reach more people, maybe people having the ability to buy things at their fingertips.

Bleeker: Yeah, I'm always looking for those secondary plays. So, let's talk about a couple of AI companies to start. Maybe you'll ask for a few more. One company I really like highlighting is iRobot. It's been a company that has seen its shares decline relatively dramatically, around 20 to 30%, after a huge run up, mind you, on some short seller complaints. I believe the competing brand that people are worried about pinching margins is named Shark Ninja. But what you never see in these reports is the open-ended optionality of what deep learning could mean to a company like that. Household robotics with the advances could get exponentially better in an extremely short time, and they would be the established brand consumer. So, you're looking at a space that could get 10-20X better in a short period. And they're going to be the one that people understand. The example I like bringing up on this is, when Uber first started, a lot of people said, why would you ever buy Uber? It's a $10 billion taxi cab market in the U.S. Well, I think Uber does $20 billion in bookings right now. When you create a foundationally new technology that does something completely different, the market rises to a new level, which most investors did not anticipate. I see the same thing happening in robotics and their capabilities.

John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Teresa Kersten is an employee of LinkedIn and is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. LinkedIn is owned by Microsoft. Dylan Lewis owns shares of Amazon, Apple, and MercadoLibre. Eric Bleeker owns shares of Amazon, Apple, iRobot, and MercadoLibre. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Amazon, Apple, iRobot, MercadoLibre, and Netflix. The Motley Fool owns shares of Oracle and has the following options: long January 2020 $150 calls on Apple and short January 2020 $155 calls on Apple. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.