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Wireless links and cheap processing power make mobile robots increasingly practical for industry and public-safety applications.

Originally inspired by the fictional R2-D2 “droid” of the “Star Wars” movies, iRobot co-founder Helen Greiner now equips U.S. troops in Iraq with battlefield-grade PackBot units that can be thrown through a window to explore a potentially booby-trapped building.

Using technologies shared with the company’s consumer-sector Roomba vacuum cleaner, the $45,000 PackBot appeared in a video accompanying Greiner’s keynote speech at the O’Reilly Emerging Technology Conference this month in San Diego.