back to article Amazon buys Roomba maker iRobot for $1.7b

Megacorp Amazon wants to buy iRobot, a company that is best known for its Roomba autonomous vacuum cleaner. In a statement published alongside its calendar second quarter financial results, iRobot confirmed Amazon had bid $61 per share in an all-cash transaction totalling around $1.7 billion. Current iRobot CEO Colin Angle …

  1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

    Spies

    So Amazon can listen to your moaning all day through Alexa and now they will be able to inspect your floor.

    What's next?

    1. DS999 Silver badge
      Terminator

      Re: Spies

      If your vacuum thinks your carpet looks worn or stained you'll start seeing ads for roll carpeting?

    2. HildyJ Silver badge
      WTF?

      Re: Spies

      What it means is that now Alexa is mobile. Didn't put Alexa in your bathroom? No problem. Roomba is there to help. The next upgrade will be to make it IP67 so it can follow you into the shower.

      1. ThatOne Silver badge

        Re: Spies

        > The next upgrade will be to make it IP67 so it can follow you into the shower.

        As filmed by Hitchcock in "Psycho"...

    3. Strahd Ivarius Silver badge

      Re: Spies

      They will have access to all your dirty secrets...

  2. Lis

    How about when it maps your house and sends the maps to Amazon.

    Or equips it with a camera for whatever reason so it can photograph your furniture and "suggest" you stuff looks tatty and maybe you should buy some new stuff?

    1. Arthur the cat Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Meanwhile, over on Twitter

      > Alternative headline: Amazon buys company that constantly maps the inside of your home

      https://twitter.com/ow/status/1555555317588451329

      1. cyberdemon Silver badge
        Holmes

        What happens to the data that Roomba has already collected about the contents of their customers' homes? Most companies seem to have a "we don't sell your personal data, except when someone buys us" policy these days.. Presumably Amazon must have decided that it was already a treasure trove of data, otherwise they wouldn't have been able to promise "not to change how roomba operates" etc.

    2. Persona Silver badge

      It already has a camera that it uses for navigation, and it maps your house too. Sometimes quite accurately but often I struggle to reconcile its drawn map with my floor layout.

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        >Sometimes quite accurately but often I struggle to reconcile its drawn map with my floor layout.<

        Joke's on you. The map isn't for you to use. bwahahahahaha.

    3. doublelayer Silver badge

      Amazon already has products with cameras that are expected to have consistent unobstructed views. If you don't trust them to use that data in a way you would accept, which you probably shouldn't, don't put one there. I would inspect any data collection statement from any robot vacuum that is going to send data elsewhere, and when possible, use one that can function without an internet connection. If they put a flash chip in it, it should be able to store the maps it creates locally, so unless you have multiple ones that are working together, and I don't even know if that's a feature they have, they shouldn't need to communicate. Whether you can get one from this company I don't know.

      1. Drew Scriver

        You're right - to a degree. A number of years ago I purchased GEs Bluetooth lightbulbs precisely because the fine print stated that they required no internet connection.

        Not long after I had installed a bunch of them they stopped working properly. Did some digging and found that my firewall/proxy server was blocking communication from the (required) phone application. The application violated two of my rules: traffic to China and pr0n servers.

        I contacted GE and provided the details, but they could not have cared less.

        It was kind of fun to return the bulbs to Lowe's (Home Improvement Box store in the US) after the 90-day return period, though.

        Store clerk: "Sir, we really cannot take these back since you bought them almost half a year ago."

        My reply: "Well, I'm not keeping them - they started communicating with a known pr0n [I uttered the full word at the service counter while surrounded by other customers] server in China."

        Store clerk (whose face had turned a few shades darker): "Eh - would you like the money returned to your credit card?"

    4. EricB123 Bronze badge

      I'll bet it wouldn't think much of my old orange armchair.

      I guess I will get calls from both a furniture store and an interior decorator.

  3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Market saturation? Totally unexpected.

    Maybe they need a new model, perhaps something that can clean stair carpets.

    1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Market saturation? Totally unexpected

      They'd get something saturated - oldest rescue dog, when frightened, tends to pee on whatever frightened him..

  4. Barry Rueger

    Oh crap!

    The thing that has kept me from buying a Roomba was the client whose cute little dog left a nice soft turd on the carpet...

    Although maybe that just an Internet legend?

    Found it!

    https://eu.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2016/08/15/pooptastrophe-man-details-night-his-roomba-ran-over-dog-poop/88667704/

    1. Arthur the cat Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: Oh crap!

      Friends had cats and a Roomba. The cats ate something that disagreed with them. The friends got rid of a Roomba and several rugs, all in an unpleasant (and smelly) state, and bought a lot of disinfectant.

    2. Proton_badger

      Re: Oh crap!

      There's a ton on those poop stories and many youtube videos off poop smeared all over the floors. That's why Roomba's mid to high end Robots (but not the low end ones) have cameras to identify poop, wires, socks or other hazards they can get stuck in. They work well and iRobot claim they have trained it to recognize 1000s of types of poop, but I'm sure they are not perfect. Well for me it avoids perfectly getting stuck in wires and non poop hazards, that's all I need. It's never gotten stuck anywhere.

      It also use the camera for navigation which works "ok" but not as well as lidar. Sometimes when I send it to another room it stops a few times on the way to "look around" to find its way. Once, in three months it failed to dock properly but though it had and it ate its battery in 12 hours overnight just sitting idle, which seems fast. Then it reported "no battery installed" and it took me some faffing to get it to charge again.

      Overall it's OK but not great. Not happy Amazon now will know my home layout as well. I had just canceled prime because i had enough of them and I want to support my local London Drugs...

      1. Gene Cash Silver badge

        Re: Oh crap!

        trained it to recognize 1000s of types of poop

        I think I had that job, once...

      2. DS999 Silver badge

        Re: Oh crap!

        The fact you pay have to PAY EXTRA to not to smear poop all over your house is still a pretty big mark against Roomba in my book.

        1. doublelayer Silver badge

          Re: Oh crap!

          If you weren't looking while using a manual vacuum, you'd have the same problem. If you choose to use a robot to do something, you should expect there to be some cases where you need a more advanced robot to do everything a human would do. For complex things, it's why there are no robots available to do them. If you expect an environment free of those hazards, you may be able to use the simpler version. For each situation, there are tools that can be used for it.

          1. DS999 Silver badge

            Re: Oh crap!

            What a stupid claim. It is pretty hard not to look when you vacuum by hand, and if you look away for a moment you will still be forced to look every few seconds to avoid damage to furniture and walls. I'll bet the number of people who have ever run over a dog turd with their Hoover or Dyson and smeared it over their ENTIRE HOUSE while vacuuming is exactly zero.

            If you want to defend Roomba charging more for the "anti shit smear" option, at least come up with something that makes sense in the real world.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Oh crap!

              As someone who is blind and also vacuums, no, it's not hard to do so without looking; I avoid damaging walls by moving gently against them, and it has been working fine for years. I wonder how you're using your vacuum that would be likely to cause such damage. You are right to say that people probably don't tend to do so without looking, but that would be because they're already there facing in the direction they're going. Should they close their eyes and try it without cleaning the floor first, the results would end up being as unpleasant. I think the original comparison is accurate; you do something by default because you have all the facilities of a human, but if you want a machine to do it, you need to give it the required abilities as well.

              1. werdsmith Silver badge

                Re: Oh crap!

                Keeping an animal has associated costs. Manual vacuum cleaners optimised for animal hair and pet dander are more expensive.

                If you don’t have an animal then you don’t need to pay extra for shit detectors. Because any human offender will probably tell you it’s there.

            2. doublelayer Silver badge

              Re: Oh crap!

              Having optional features is how product manufacturing works, even when some of those features are desired by nearly everyone. This is no different, even if it would likely put many people off their cheapest one.

              Consider saws. For a long time, they were rather basic moving blades for cutting stuff and that's it. There are now saws that have sensors to check whether what they're cutting is likely to be flesh, so if your finger is there, they'll stop. Objectively, this is the better saw. Still, for years, people dealt with this problem by not having their finger near a saw blade and you can still buy plenty of saws that won't have that sensor. The ones that do will be more expensive. You could easily say "The fact you have to pay extra not to cut your finger off is still a pretty big mark against [saw manufacturer] in my book", but it wouldn't change how saws are manufactured or used.

              When we consider a product, we may all have features that, in our opinion, are necessary for the product to be useful. This doesn't mean that the product is useless without them; someone who is careful can use a saw without the finger sensor and someone without pets can probably use the no-detection vacuum, but they aren't desirable to us. The cheapest vacuum is undesirable to you. All of these vacuums are at least somewhat undesirable to me, which is why I've stuck with the manual vacuum for now. Yet that doesn't mean that the product is fatally flawed.

              1. DS999 Silver badge

                Re: Oh crap!

                That example is like a manual vacuum cleaner that has a poop detector built in that will put on the brakes and refuse to be pushed forward or pulled back over poop. It would be quite reasonable to leave that out of a base model, because it only goes where you push it so that's not a feature necessary for reasonable operation. It is a necessary feature on a vacuum that does its thing while you are not home and won't see the aftermath of such a mistake until it is far too late.

                If there were autonomous saws that wandered around a shop floor from station to station performing cutting tasks without any human oversight or help then I would view one that didn't have the safety feature of not cutting up a person by mistake as a pretty glaring omission!

      3. LDS Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: Oh crap!

        Just because we don't have smell sensors yet - it would be far simpler to identify poo using them than trying to recognize thousands of different shapes and colors...

        1. ThatOne Silver badge

          Re: Oh crap!

          It's a marketing problem, not a real world problem, for the substance an autonomous vacuum cleaner shouldn't spread all over the carpet floor could be a lot of things (several, wildly different food substances, grease, cosmetics, you get the idea).

          You actually have to make it able to make a difference between "vacuumable" and "not vacuumable" objects, so it can simply go around the latter. Unfortunately adding that mass spectrometer makes autonomous vacuum cleaners quite expensive and bulky, not to mention the increased power requirements...

    3. This post has been deleted by its author

    4. G R Goslin

      Re: Oh crap!

      Perhaps they could develop a vac that looks like a dog, but picks up hair, instead of shedding it. Does not require 'walkies' in the rain, but annoyingly gets under your feet. I can't think of a single disadvantage. They could even have it bark when needing the 'bag' emptied.

      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: Oh crap!

        but annoyingly gets under your feet

        Ah - you have a dachshund too? Ours has the nickname of 'trip hazard'..

    5. Abbas

      Re: Oh crap!

      Yes, these things happen. Cat barf, in my case.

      Anyhow, the best thing for pet owners, barfs and/or turs notwithstanding.

  5. herman Silver badge
    Go

    Window cleaner

    They need to make a window cleaning robot. I would buy one from them in a heartbeat. There are a few on the market already but they are not all that great.

    1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

      Re: They need to make a window cleaning robot

      If they could invent something that could scrape Artex off ceilings... Please...

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: They need to make a window cleaning robot

        As a hire device maybe. It's not like you'd need it more than once :-)

        1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

          Re: As a hire device maybe. It's not like you'd need it more than once :-)

          True, but Amazon do offer a subscription option for X-Tex (deliver every month - most common).

          1. Persona Silver badge

            Re: As a hire device maybe. It's not like you'd need it more than once :-)

            I prefer to pay a good plasterer to skim over it. X-Tex works out very expensive if you have more than a small room to fix. It's a lot slower and often messier too.

      2. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: They need to make a window cleaning robot

        Artex removers are more commonly known as steamers.

        1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Re: They need to make a window cleaning robot

          Artex removers are more commonly known as steamers.

          Or the Luftwaffe..

          (The house I grew up in had large crack in the Artex due to a near miss from a bomb in the 1940's.. fixing it would require removing all the artex (it was a large room) and re-doing it. The crack was stable (partly because of all the polyfiller and paint that had been subsequently applied) so my parents didn't bother..)

      3. William Towle
        Angel

        Re: They need to make a window cleaning robot

        > If they could invent something that could scrape Artex off ceilings... Please...

        As a young boy I had something like these launchable helicopter wing toys.

        They're not very directable but inside a house they're exceptionally good at smoothing off any artex bumps they do happen to make contact with...

      4. Arthur the cat Silver badge
        Flame

        Re: They need to make a window cleaning robot

        If they could invent something that could scrape Artex off ceilings

        I think it's called a thermic lance.

      5. KBeee Silver badge

        Re: They need to make a window cleaning robot

        Old Artex (up to 1980's?) contained asbestos, so take care if trying to remove it.

    2. Potemkine! Silver badge

      Re: Window cleaner

      Or a device to remove spider webs on the ceiling. With an option to remove or not spiders too, according to the user's PETA affiliation.

      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: Window cleaner

        With an option to remove or not spiders too

        Spiders are good - they kill the flies (the ones that get through the patio & kitchen door screens) and clothes moths!

        (We made the mistake (about 25 years ago) in bringing a large bag of clothes back from M-i-L's house. Needless to say, it had a small colony of clothes moths which proceeded tp make themselves at home. We can't do a house fumigation because of the pets (and tropical fish) so we just have to squish them as we find them. Or hope the spiders do their job..)

        The wife has a pet spider that lives in the kitchen window. Although it's been moved out to the greenhouse now..

  6. Bartholomew Bronze badge
    Big Brother

    It is almost like the stasi police and 1984 had a baby.

    Now all devices will come with totally free "AWS IoT Core" so that your Roomba can upload all harvested data even when you do not allow them access to networks under your control.

    1. Drew Scriver

      Re: It is almost like the stasi police and 1984 had a baby.

      To update one of Ronald Reagan's astute remarks:

      1980s: "Trust us - we're from the government and we're here to help."

      2020s: "Trust us - we're from [cloud-based data slurp company] and we're here to help."

      1. ThatOne Silver badge

        Re: It is almost like the stasi police and 1984 had a baby.

        > we're here to help

        Just not you.

  7. A. Coatsworth
    Devil

    "We have no plans to operate iRobot differently than how they operate today[...]"

    We will change it sooner rather than later, it is just that we won't let users know ahead of time.

    1. Drew Scriver

      Re: "We have no plans to operate iRobot differently than how they operate today[...]"

      Depends on their definition of the word "plan".

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: "We have no plans to operate iRobot differently than how they operate today[...]"

        In business, "plan" means actual processes and budgets etc are in place and ready to go. They don't mean it in the colloquial sense most people use it, eg "we're planning on going on holiday next year" usually means, "we're thinking about it, but haven't yet decided on where, when or how much we'll spend yet"

        I have no doubt that they will b e discussing the pros and cons of shutting out 3rd party access and considering how to plan for whatever they decide.

      2. Strahd Ivarius Silver badge

        Re: "We have no plans to operate iRobot differently than how they operate today[...]"

        they will have the plans once the iRobots have completed the task of uploading them to AWS...

    2. LDS Silver badge

      Re: "We have no plans to operate iRobot differently than how they operate today[...]"

      The statement was very restricted to a specific topic - it talked about **only** about interoperability with other "assistants" - something they have to say to get regulators approvals if there are any competition concerns.

      It did say nothing about any other changes in the business....

  8. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Not Roomba but...

    We were on holiday a few weeks ago in in the hotel the available wireless networks included Robovac. It looks like they're all at it.

    1. Strahd Ivarius Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Not Roomba but...

      Don't connect to that network, it vacuums the content of your device!

  9. JpChen

    I’ll stick with my Henry thank you very much.

    1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

      Ditto. However, an interesting project comes to mind – I wonder if you can get second hand Asimos?

  10. skeptical i

    when the ringie-thingie talks to the roomba

    I'm waiting for Amazon't to "upgrade" their Ring thing so it can communicate with the Roomba and order it to scramble out the cat/doggie door to chase away any door-knockers (political campaign/ candidate canvassers, union organizers) that Amazon't deems unworthy. While it may not put The Fear into said canvassers now ("oh, how cute, your vacuum escaped") options available to future Roombas (flame thrower, whirling razor blades, frikkin laser beams) may do the trick.

    1. Strahd Ivarius Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: when the ringie-thingie talks to the roomba

      The flame thrower option is available on the Tesla autonomous vacuum cleaners, available next September, with delivery by SpaceX or Hyperloop, depending on your location

      (according to a tweet I saw this morning)

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Excellent kit, but the worlds worst service

    They do a very good job on the cleaning but when it breaks you will have the wost service experience known to man.

    Hopefully Amazon will correct this, it really could not get worse. (obviously apply above caveats about amazon turning it into a spy machine)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Excellent kit, but the worlds worst service

      Amazon: Customer service will now be handled by Comcast.

  12. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

    Smug Amazon

    Google's self driving search-bar cars are so far away that I don't see Google recovering investment costs. The first to profit will probably be facade companies that can sell promoted routes, kill some people, then vanish overnight. Even if Google exists long enough for self-driving cars to be common, they'll won't have a monopoly to pay their investments off.

    Meanwhile, Amazon gets mobile inside houses with cameras, sensors, and centralized computing for maybe $2 billion total.

  13. MachDiamond Silver badge

    The unstated reason for buying iRobot scares me

    I've never owned a Roomba, but I think they are very clever. The problem I have with them is I'd still need my standard vacuum to get the corners, stairs, etc. The Roomba only gets the easy to get to main patches of floor which are the fastest bits to do with the upright (it's even an actual Hoover). The more time consuming parts of the process is moving chairs, picking up things and shifting trash bins. A Roomba won't do any of that so I don't see how it's saving me any time cleaning.

    The big question is why would Amazon be interested in spending a very large sum of money to get into the floor cleaning business. It has to have the potential of a very large payoff. How would they improve the product? Would it get an array of microphones that will relay to an Alexa? I'm sure their marketing could put a good spin on that. A camera is super obvious. Not only would it map the floor, it could assemble a 3D map of what's in the room as well and make assumptions about what it sees that can be inserted into a simulated view. How about if it could talk with baby monitors and other CCTV cameras looking from a higher perspective and uses the Roomba as a beacon for calibration since the image from a wide angle lens makes for lots of distortion. The cherry on the cake might be a sensor that samples the air exhaust of the vacuum cleaner for various substances. I don't believe I've come across a self-installed spy package that uses smell as an input, but it could be very telling.

    Anybody that's worked on reverse engineering projects knows that every clue helps. Spies don't just think they'll find a damning piece of writing when they have a rummage through the contents of a dust bin. They will be able to put together a surprisingly accurate picture of the sort of people that use that rubbish bin. Just somebody's food preferences over a period of time can give away their national origin. Many religious observances have preferences or prohibitions around food even if only during specific times. Many of today's mega companies not only sell a product or service, but sell their users/customers information as a product. The more complete a picture they can paint, the more money the data is worth.

  14. hoola Silver badge

    How are they worth $1.7Bn

    What I find strange is just they they can actually be worth this much? They are loss-making and there is very little to suggest that is going to change if Amazon are continuing the business model.

    So what has Amazon to gain from this?

    What to they have in tech/IP that Amazon can benefit from?

    Clearly Amazon believe there is value to them however in reality the amount is lost down the back of the sofa. Is this just a case of buying anything that might at some point be a competitor?

    1. Cuddles Silver badge

      Re: How are they worth $1.7Bn

      See all the comments above about having mobile cameras continuously mapping and monitoring your entire house. iRobot is not worth anywhere near $1.7B as a hoover company; as the article notes they appear to be at the brink of collapse financially. Amazon has not bought a hoover company, they've bought an autonomous robot spy company.

    2. KBeee Silver badge

      Re: How are they worth $1.7Bn

      I often get similar thoughts when I see XYZ company has been bought by ABC company for God-knows how many billions.

      I remember Go Pro being bought for an outrageous amount once, and it seemed that going by sales figures, each camera would have to sell for about $5000 for the next 10 years to recoup the investment.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ha!

    "We believe partners and customers should have more choices and pick the solutions that work best for them, and we have no plans to discontinue these partnerships."

    Just like they opened their retail platform to third party sellers. Once it got too popular (the sellers making more than them) they are now screwing sellers over, imitating best sellers under their own brands and undercutting.

    Partnerships? Amazon? Hah. We'll see.

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