Amazon and Roomba developer iRobot have finalized a merger agreement that will see Amazon acquiring the consumer robot manufacturer. The true motive behind the acquisition is unclear, but it is likely an attempt for Amazon to develop more autonomous warehouse robots.
iRobot, the company famous for the game-changing Roomba, is joining the corporate overlords at Amazon. Amazon announced today that it has acquired iRobot in a merger valued for $61 per share through an all cash transaction that’s valued at nearly $1.7 billion. Senior vice president of Amazon Devices said in a press release:
We know that saving time matters, and chores take precious time that can be better spent doing something that customers love. 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.
The announcement is oddly void of details, but the total acquisition of iRobot by Amazon coupled with Limp’s comments—specifically his mentions of automation and avoiding obstacles—likely points to Amazon’s interest in acquiring iRobot’s technology, not their products, in order to bolster Amazon’s warehouse robot fleet. When Gizmodo asked Amazon about their intent for the acquisition via email, they initially redirected us to Limp’s quote. However, an Amazon spokesperson further explained on the phone that the merger would see iRobot join Limp’s Devices and Services department.
Earlier this summer, Amazon announced Proteus, a robot to serve in the company’s warehouses that is suspiciously Roomba-shaped and capable of avoiding obstacles. Amazon’s warehouse robot fleet has previously included the likes of “Ernie,” a robot that can retrieve items from shelves, and “Bert,” one of the company’s first attempts at using smart navigation tech.
Despite this, Amazon was adamant in an email to Gizmodo that “Amazon has no plans to use iRobot’s tech in our warehouses as part of this merger.”
Amazon’s pivot to autonomous (and emotionless) warehouse workers comes at an interesting time as the company sees a broader push for unionization and better warehouse working conditions. This past Prime Day, warehouse workers at Amazon circulated a petition to increase public attention on the oppressive conditions of Amazon’s warehouses.
Update 1:20 pm ET: This article was updated with a quote from Amazon regarding the use of iRobot tech in Amazon warehouses.