Amazon Spends $1.7B for Roomba Developer iRobot to Grab Robot Vacuum Market Lead
Amazon will pay $1.7 billion to acquire Roomba robot vacuum creator iRobot. The acquisition completes the steadily growing alignment between iRobot and Amazon’s smart home AI software and comes just a couple of months after iRobot’s latest operating system release.
iRobot’s massive success with Roomba over the last two decades brought robot vacuums into millions of homes. The company has increasingly turned to software to stand out against the mushrooming competition, including more and deeper connections with voice assistants. Alexa has been at the forefront of the new options since Roomba added limited voice controls through Alexa in 2017. Many of Amazon’s smart home features are now embedded in iRobot’s products, with recent upgrades making the Roomba better at understanding casual language and becoming more proactive. Using Alexa Hunches, the voice assistant could activate Roombas when and where the AI calculated would be best. For instance, only starting the vacuum when owners were likely to be out of the home or in rooms it knows aren’t in use at the moment. Roomba also enabled Alexa Announcements, prompting the Alexa-enabled devices to tell owners about problems or when the vacuuming was complete.
“Since we started iRobot, our team has been on a mission to create innovative, practical products that make customers’ lives easier, leading to inventions like the Roomba and iRobot OS,” iRobot CEO Colin Angle said. “Amazon shares our passion for building thoughtful innovations that empower people to do more at home, and I cannot think of a better place for our team to continue our mission. I’m hugely excited to be a part of Amazon and to see what we can build together for customers in the years ahead.”
Amazon’s interest in iRobot is likely tied to its smart home strategy and willingness to pay for market leadership. Acquiring iRobot is similar to Amazon’s purchase of Ring for an estimated $1 billion. iRobot’s tech could be a boon for other Amazon projects. The advanced AI mapping algorithms developed for Roomba have obvious possibilities for the Amazon Astro robot. In Voicebot’s interview with Astro early adopter Sarah Andrew Wilson, the robot’s ability to quickly map and navigate a home was a highlight, and its occasional lapses stood out as a problem to be solved. Astro drew a lot of comparison to Roomba, and Wilson commented that a vacuum seemed a natural fit for the robot, perhaps as a modular addition. After all, Jeff Bezos’ first hint at an Amazon robot involved literally taping an Echo smart speaker to a Roomba and posting the photo on Instagram.
“We know that saving time matters, and chores take precious time that can be better spent doing something that customers love,” Amazon Devices senior vice president Dave Limp said. “Over many years, the iRobot team has proven its ability to reinvent how people clean with products that are incredibly practical and inventive—from cleaning when and where customers want while avoiding common obstacles in the home, to automatically emptying the collection bin. Customers love iRobot products—and I’m excited to work with the iRobot team to invent in ways that make customers’ lives easier and more enjoyable.”
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