Your Roomba is about to become an Amazon device

ByLance T. Lee

Aug 5, 2022

Amazon will buy iRobot for $1.7 billion. The deal, which the companies announced Friday morning, will make the popular Roomba range of robot vacuums part of the Amazon family and accelerate deeper integration with Amazon’s Alexa smart assistant and the Amazon’s smarthome ecosystem. ‘company.

Founded in 1990 by MIT roboticists Colin Angle and Helen Greiner, the company struggled for most of the 1990s, trying to break into toy play with an overly real and creepy robot My Real Baby Doll. (opens in a new tab). iRobot, however, struck gold when it moved away from anthropomorphic robots and into the utility robot space, introducing its first Roomba robot vacuum in 2002.

The lineup has grown from that initial $199 round robot to a full line of Roombas, most of them looking pretty much like the original automated home assistant. iRobot eventually branched out into gutter cleaning robots (the Looj (opens in a new tab)) and robotic mops (the Braava Jet).

He also made his own acquisitions, taking over Evolution robotics (opens in a new tab)manufacturers of a competing Mint floor cleaning robot, in 2012.

To date, iRobot has sold approximately 20 million robot vacuums.

To clean

iRobot joins Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer, which has spent the past seven years building a wide range of smart home technologies, primarily under the Echo range umbrella. There are smart speakers, outlets, clocks, video call screens, and streaming devices. It does not, however, offer an Amazon-branded robot vacuum.

In a statement on the acquisition, Amazon Devices Senior Vice President Dave Limp said, “Customers love iRobot products – and I’m excited to work with the iRobot team to invent ways that make customers’ lives easier and more pleasant.

Colin Angle, who will remain CEO (Greiner left the company years ago), said in the statement, “Amazon shares our passion for creating thoughtful innovations that empower people to do more at home. , and I can’t think of a better place for our team to continue our mission.”

And after

It will take some time for the deal to gain regulatory and shareholder approval, meaning nothing will change for Roomba users in the short term.

Assuming the deal closes, Roomba users can, at the very least, look forward to software upgrades that integrate Amazon’s Alexa more deeply into their existing Roomba robot vacuums and Bravaa Jet robot mops.

There may be some changes in the product line. It could thin out or, as has been the case with Amazon, we could see new, much cheaper iRobot Roomba robot vacuums, possibly with Amazon branding attached to them. A Roomba that responds directly to voice commands seems possible.

iRobot has, over the years, done an impressive job mapping the average home and this information can be useful to Amazon’s technology and wider product network. It doesn’t imply any type of privacy issue here, but if all the Amazon devices in your home are now aware of its layout, it could enable new features and interactions.

This is of course only the first days and for a while Amazon and the new iRobot can work separately for about a year.

Still, it’s a big moment for iRobot, the company that proved consumer robotics could be real business by delivering affordable home robots that didn’t try to impress you with their looks or their human antics, but were doing the dirty work that you didn’t want to do.

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