Amazon made a $1.7 billion offer for iRobot, the company that makes Roomba robot vacuums, mops and other household robots. The deal will keep Colin Angle as iRobot’s CEO but is still contingent on the approval of regulators and iRobot shareholders.
iRobot has an intriguing origin story. Founded in 1990 by MIT researchers, the company initially focused on military robots like PackBot. It marked a major turning point in 2002 when it unveiled the first Roomba — the debut robovac racked up sales of a million units by 2004. The company eventually bowed out of the military business in 2016.
There are many iRobot rivals now, including Anker’s Eufy brand, Neato, Shark, even Dyson. But with the power of Amazon, iRobot should be able to dominate. Just think of the Prime Day deals! Some of Amazon’s own robots often look like Roombas already — like its first fully autonomous warehouse robot, Proteus.
— Mat Smith
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Physicist posts a photo of chorizo to troll James Webb Space Telescope fans Looks like a planet to me.
On July 31st, Étienne Klein, the director of France’s Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission, shared an image he claimed the JWST captured of Proxima Centauri, the nearest-known star to the sun. “It was taken by the James Webb Space Telescope,” Klein told his 91,000-plus Twitter followers. “This level of detail… A new world is unveiled every day.”
Except, it was actually a photo of a slice of chorizo against a black background. “In view of certain comments, I feel obliged to specify that this tweet showing an alleged picture of Proxima Centauri was a joke,” he said. Klein added he posted the image to educate the public about the threat of fake news.
Samsung’s Z Fold 3 durability one year in Tougher than you might think, but…
Samsung has made major strides with its foldable phones, paving the way for innovative (though sometimes quite pricey) alternatives to the typical glass brick. On the advent of the fourth-generation of foldables from the company, likely to include both a new Galaxy Z Fold and the Galaxy Z Flip, Engadget’s Sam Rutherford reports on his own foldable purchase of a Z Fold 3 last year. The phones are increasingly tough, but that foldable display innovation gets derailed by bubbling under the screen protector after roughly half a year.
Steam is finally adding support for Nintendo Joy-Con controllers You can use the gamepads individually or as a matched pair.
Valve is finally adding Steam support for the console’s controllers. In an announcement spotted by PC Gamer, the company said the latest Steam beta adds Joy-Cons support. With the new software, it’s possible to use Joy-Cons either individually or as part of a matched pair for playing games. If you want to try the feature, you need to opt into the Steam beta. You’ll either need a Bluetooth adapter or a motherboard with Bluetooth connectivity to use your Joy-Cons with Steam because there’s no way of connecting a cable to the Switch controllers.
Baidu’s robotaxis can now operate without a safety driver in the car The company says it’s running the first fully driverless service in China.
Baidu has permits to run a fully driverless robotaxi service in China. It says it’s the first company in the country to obtain such permissions. Back in April, Baidu got approval to run an autonomous taxi service in Beijing, as long as there was a human operator in the driver or front passenger seat. Now, it can offer a service where the car’s only occupants are passengers. There are some limits to the permits. Driverless Apollo Go vehicles can roam designated zones in Wuhan and Chongqing during daytime hours only. This does cover a good 13 square kilometers (5 square miles) in Wuhan alone, though.