TECH WEEKLY

August 12, 2022

Amazon to acquire iRobot for $1.7 billion

Amazon will acquire iRobot Corp, maker of the robotic vacuum cleaner Roomba, in an all-cash deal for about $1.7 billion ($61 per share) in the latest push by the world’s largest online retailer to expand its stable of smart home devices.

The home robotics firm, best known for pioneering the robotic vacuum, was founded in 1990 by MIT Artificial Intelligence Lab members Colin Angle, Rodney Brooks and Helen Greiner. Twelve years after its founding, the company introduced the Roomba, a brand that has since become synonymous with the category, selling more than 30 million units as of 2020. Brooks and Greiner have gone on to found and lead several other companies, while Angle has remained on-board as CEO, a position he will maintain post-acquisition.

Advanced Roomba vacuums have internal mapping technology that learns the floor plan of a user’s home. The devices can also “adapt to and remember” up to 10 floor plans “so users can carry their robot to another floor or a separate home, where the robot will recognize its location and clean as instructed,” according to iRobot.

The combination of Roomba, Alexa, Ring doorbells, and Amazon’s other smart home products give the company an incredible amount of data in a modern smart home. That will naturally lead to even more questions around privacy, and Amazon’s control over the smart home market.
Source: amazon

AppLovin bids to merge with video game maker Unity

US digital marketing company AppLovin has submitted a non-binding bid to merge with US video games software company Unity Software. AppLovin has offered $58.85 for each Unity share. Unity will own 55% of the combined company’s outstanding shares, representing about 49% of the voting rights.

Under the proposed deal, Unity would have to terminate its recent deal to merge with ironSource, and Unity’s Chief Executive John Riccitiello will become CEO of the combined business, while AppLovin Chief Executive Adam Foroughi will take the role of chief operating officer.

Unity powers thousands of games across consoles, and when it comes to mobile apps, Unity supports games like Pokémon Go, Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, Call of Duty: Mobile and more. Unity CEO John Riccitiello said that he was interested in the deal with ironSource because it would give Unity developers more tools to grow and monetize their apps, but the company hasn’t yet responded to AppLovin’s offer, which would offer similar benefits for creators.
Source: AppLovin

Baidu wins China’s first permits for fully driverless robotaxis

Baidu has secured a permit to operate China’s first-ever fully driverless licensed robotaxis, winning an early lead in the race to launch autonomous cars in the country.

There are some limits to the permits. Driverless Apollo Go vehicles will ferry paying passengers around designated zones in Wuhan and Chongqing during daytime hours only. The service areas cover 13 square kilometers in Wuhan’s Economic & Technological Development Zone (WHDZ) and 30 square kilometers in Chongqing’s Yongchuan District.

The Chinese cities of Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen have also allowed robotaxi operations by companies including Baidu and Pony.ai in restricted areas. But the rules still require them to have a safety driver in the passenger seat.

The Chinese government is aspiring to take a global lead in autonomous driving by setting up pilot testing zones across the country and encouraging local companies to develop the sector.

Meanwhile in the U.S., Cruise recently began offering a driverless commercial service in San Francisco, and Waymo has been offering one in Arizona since 2020.
Source: Reuters