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Amazon wins approval to buy robot vacuum maker iRobot


Amazon has announced that it will buy iRobot, the company behind the popular Roomba robotic vacuum, for $1.7 billion in cash. The deal, which is expected to close by the end of the year, will expand Amazon’s portfolio of smart home devices and consumer robotics.

iRobot was founded in 1990 by a group of MIT roboticists who wanted to create practical and innovative robots for everyday use. The Roomba, which was launched in 2002, was their first breakthrough product. The Roomba can automatically clean floors without human intervention, avoiding obstacles and returning to its charging dock when done. Since then, iRobot has also introduced other home cleaning robots, such as mops, pool cleaners and air purifiers. iRobot also makes an educational robot called Root that teaches children how to code.

Amazon is a leader in the smart home market, with devices such as Alexa, its voice-activated digital assistant, Ring, its connected doorbell and camera system, and Astro, its recently unveiled home robot that can follow users around and perform tasks. Amazon said that acquiring iRobot will allow it to “invent in ways that make customers’ lives easier and more enjoyable”.

“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,” said Dave Limp, Amazon’s senior vice president of devices and services, in a statement .

iRobot’s CEO Colin Angle said that joining Amazon will help iRobot reach more customers and accelerate its innovation. “We are excited to become part of Amazon’s world-class team and culture,” he said.

The deal is Amazon’s fourth-largest acquisition ever, after Whole Foods ($13.7 billion), MGM ($8.45 billion) and One Medical ($3.9 billion). It also comes at a time when iRobot is facing challenges from lower-cost competitors and supply chain disruptions due to the Covid-19 pandemic. iRobot reported a 30% decline in revenue in the second quarter of 2022 compared to the same period last year.

Some privacy advocates have raised concerns about the deal, as iRobot collects spatial data from its robots to map users’ homes. This data could potentially reveal information about the size and layout of homes, as well as their contents and brands. Amazon has not disclosed how it plans to use this data or whether it will share it with third parties.

Photo by Kārlis Dambrāns, flickr

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