Amazon desires to map your own home, so it purchased iRobot.

When I spoke with iRobot’s Colin Angle earlier this summer, he said that iRobot OS, the latest software operating system for its robot vacuums and mops, will power household robots. gain a deeper understanding of your home and your habits. Today’s news takes on a whole new meaning Amazon buys iRobot for $1.7 billion.

From a smart home perspective, it seems clear that Amazon wants iRobot to create maps to deeply understand our homes. The vacuum company has an in-depth knowledge of our floor plans and, most importantly, how they change. She knows where your kitchen is, which are your kids’ rooms, where your couch is (and how new it is), and whether you recently turned your guest room into a nursery.

This type of data is digital gold for a company whose primary goal is to sell you more stuff. While I’m curious to see how Amazon can use iRobot’s technology to advance its smart home ambitions, many are right to be concerned about the privacy implications. People want home automation to work better, but they don’t want to give up the intimate details of their lives for convenience.

It’s a conundrum across the tech world, but it’s much more personal in our home. Amazons history of sharing data with police departments through subsidiary Ring, combined with its “always listening (for wake-up)” Echo smart speakers and in-depth knowledge of your floor plan, provides a pretty comprehensive picture of your daily life.

The Roomba j7 has an AI-powered front camera that can recognize objects in your home.

Each iRobot connected Roomba vacuum and mop rotates around the house several times a week, repeating and redistributing spaces. In the latest model j7iRobot added a front-facing, AI-powered camera that Angle says has detected more than 43 million objects. objects in people’s homes. Other models have a low-resolution camera aimed at the ceiling for navigation.

All of which suggests that this purchase isn’t about robotics; if Amazon wanted it, it would have bought iRobot years ago. Instead, he probably chose the company (for a relative deal — iRobot just announced a 30 percent of the income decreased in the presence of increasing competition) for a detailed inspection of our home. Why? Because knowing your floor plan gives you context. And in the smart home, where Amazon plays a big role, context is king.

“We really believe in ambient intelligence, an environment where your devices are connected by artificial intelligence so they can offer much more than any device can do on its own,” Marja Koopmans, director of Alexa Smart Home, told me. interview last month. Ambient intelligence requires multiple data points. With detailed maps of our homes and the ability to communicate directly with more smart home devices when matter comesAmazon’s vision of ambient intelligence in the smart home is suddenly much more attainable.

Astro – Amazon “loves” the home robot – there was probably an attempt to get that data. The robot has a good mapping capabilities, powered by sensors and cameras that let you know everything from the location of your fridge to the room you’re currently in. Obviously, Amazon already had the ability to do what iRobot is doing. But at $1,000 and with limited capabilities (it couldn’t vacuum your house) and no general release date, the Astro won’t be getting that information on Amazon anytime soon.

Amazon’s Astro robot can map your home.

Ring’s Always Home Cam has similar mapping capabilities, so a flying camera can safely navigate your home. This product is more accessible than Astro because it costs only $250 and has very clear security. But it still cannot be bought.

So what iRobot brings to Amazon is context. As Angle told me in May, “The barrier to the next level of AI in robotics is not better AI. It’s the context,” Angle says. “For a decade, we could understand the saying ‘go into the kitchen and get me a beer.’ But if I don’t know where the kitchen is, I don’t know where the fridge is, and I don’t know what beer looks like, it doesn’t really matter that I understand what you’re saying. The iRobot OS provides some context, and because it’s cloud-based, it can easily share information with other devices. (Currently, users can opt out of Roomba’s Smart Maps feature, which stores map data and shares it between iRobot devices.)

A view of the Roomba j7’s map and AI camera capabilities.

In context, smart homes are getting smarter; devices can work better and work together without the homeowner having to program or prompt them to do so. Angle used the example of a connected air purifier (iRobot, now owned by Amazon). Aeris air cleaners). The air purifier can automatically know which room it has been in using the iRobot OS cloud. “It would be [know] ‘I’m in the kitchen. It’s good that you travel more noise. And there are many sources of pollutants here.’ Compared to his role in the bedroom, which would be different,” Angle says.

Amazon now owns four smart home brands (in addition to the Alexa platform that powers Echo smart speakers and smart displays): home security company Ring, budget camera company Blink and mesh Wi-Fi pioneer ” Eero”. Add in iRobot, and Amazon has many of the pieces needed to create an almost sentient smart home, one that can anticipate what you want and do it without you asking. This is something Amazon has already started doing with its Hunches feature.

However, consumer confidence is a major hurdle. Amazon will have to do a lot more to prove it’s worthy of this type of unfettered access to your home. For many people today, convenience is simply not worth the trade-off.

Photo by Jennifer Pattison Tuohy/The Verge

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