iRobot just sent out a press release announcing its acquisition of Evolution Robotics, maker of the Mint swifferbot, for $74 million in cash. We literally just got this, and there's going to be a conference call tomorrow morning, but we'll briefly talk about what we know right now.
If you're not familiar with Mint, read our review here, but basically it's a robot that sweeps or mops using Swiffer pads. It's not a vacuum, and it only works on hard floors. It's quiet, though, and cheap at just $200 for the base model. We liked it. And part of what we liked most about it was the fact that it uses a beacon system to localize itself, meaning that it can sweep in straight lines instead of in a pseudorandom motion like the Roomba. Whether or not straight lines are better for cleaning robots is debatable, but localization has the potential to enable all kinds of clever new robots. This seems to be a big part of why iRobot made the buy, since Evolution also has patents on an image-based localization and mapping system called vSLAM that would be appropriate for small mobile consumer robots.
Anyway, iRobot seems excited about the new tech, even if they're not ready to say much of anything about what they're going to do with it. Here's Charlie Vaida, iRobot PR Manager:
"At this time iRobot is determining how Evolution Robotics’ key navigational tools such as NorthStar and visual Simultaneous Localization and Mapping (vSLAM) will integrate into iRobot’s products; each of these technologies and the innovative talent that created them will bolster iRobot’s own technologies and R&D efforts."
And here are some obligatory and meaninglessly positive quotes from the press release:
“Evolution Robotics’ products will expand our automated floor care offerings while its technology and intellectual property will bring visual navigation and simultaneous localization and mapping, among other technologies, which could be deployed in future iRobot products to deliver greater customer value,” said Colin Angle, iRobot chairman and CEO. “There are tremendous opportunities to leverage the strength of the iRobot brand and our sales and distribution network to expand Mint product sales around the world. Robotic floor cleaners are one of the fastest growing consumer products in the past few years and our retailers and distributors welcome opportunities to fuel that growth.”“I am also pleased to announce that Paolo Pirjanian, CEO of Evolution Robotics, will be joining iRobot as Chief Technology Officer, continuing to be based in the Pasadena office. I have known Paolo for many years and his extensive experience as an industry-leading roboticist will greatly enhance our team,” Angle added.“I am very excited about Evolution Robotics and iRobot joining together as a formidable force in robotic technology and look forward to my new role as iRobot’s CTO,” said Paolo Pirjanian, CEO of Evolution Robotics, Inc.
Congrats to Paolo, who we interviewed a few years back about Mint.
iRobot is going to keep selling Mint robots as "a complementary dry/wet floor cleaning solution ideally suited for maintenance of hard surfaces" at "lower market entry points for customers with hard floors." In other words, iRobot will be happy to sell you a Mint if you can't afford a Roomba and a Scooba.
Again, we should (hopefully) have more info for you after the conference call tomorrow, so check back.
[ iRobot ]