Amazon Adds More Robots

In a world where there's always enough money to spend and enough companies to buy, leave it to Amazon to buy one of the biggies. News broke late last week that the World's Largest Bookstore has acquired iRobot, the company that makes the Roomba. The price tag? A cool $1.7 billion. Brian Heater at TechCrunch has more.

“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,” CEO Colin Angle said in a release. “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, too, has been aggressively tackling the robotics space in the decade since it acquired Kiva Systems, though the Amazon Robotics division is focused solely on its warehouse/fulfillment play. More recently, the company has made small steps into the home with the launch of Astro, a cheery ‘bot that lacks the Roomba’s single focus.


What I instantly thought of was a big deal: data collection. Roomba vacuums have been mapping people's homes and had wifi control for years. I was this close to even buying one a few months ago, but decided not to. Those conveniences are big for effective use of the device. Now, Amazon will be able to use that data however they see fit.

They released a doesn't-really-do-anything robot last year called the Astro. It seems to do some things well when navigating around the house, but imagine taking iRobot's patented technology and incorporating it into its processing. The Astro could see a mess and "call" the vacuum over to clean, even marking the appropriate area. Additionally, I can see ways Amazon will incorporate iRobot's data into Alexa and Ring to make more cohesive use of everything they know.

The sad part of this is there will likely be no way to opt out of Amazon scooping up everything they want to know. It's only a matter of time before you'll either be required to have an internet connection to use a Roomba or have to agree to the intrusive collection of data to take advantage of "premium" Roomba features. I'm only speculating right now, but this doesn't seem too far off from reality.