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iRobot sucks up Mint maker Evolution Robotics

The $74 million acquisition of California-based Evolution Robotics brings the Mint floor cleaner into the iRobot fold, as well as navigation technologies.

Scooba and Mint: Now BFF.
Tim Hornyak/CNET

Is Roomba going square?

Besides celebrating the vac-bot's tenth birthday today, iRobot announced that it's buying Evolution Robotics, whose sleek, four-sided Mint droid cleans hard surfaces with disposable cloths.

The $74 million deal brings the compact, lightweight Mint into the iRobot fold, giving the vacubot maker another product to tackle floors that aren't carpeted.

The scrubber was a potential rival to iRobot's Scooba robot. Now iRobot will get Evolution's know-how in sensing, navigation, and artificial intelligence, built up over 10 years.

"It's more about growing our capabilities -- both product line and long-term R&D," says iRobot spokeswoman Laura Jakosky. "Given our channel infrastructure and strength in global brand, we see great opportunity to take the Mint cleaners to international distribution, particularly given areas like Europe and Asia where they have predominantly hard floors. Such a wide portfolio puts us in great position against other competition overseas."

iRobot also gets Evolution's NorthStar, an infrared localization technology that allows robots to know exactly where they are in a given space. Evolution's work on visual simultaneous localization and mapping (vSLAM) tech may also change iRobot's droids.

"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," Colin Angle, iRobot chairman and CEO, said in a release.

"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," he added.

I found that Scooba cleans better than Mint, but I didn't like all the maintenance involved. I'd been hoping for a Mint-Scooba love child with the best features of both, and now that's a distinct possibility.