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SoftBank Is Selling a Roomba Competitor in the U.S.

The robot vacuum cleaner, Whiz, costs $499 a month and relies on a laser technology used in self-driving cars.

A Whiz autonomous floor-cleaning machine operates during a demonstration.
A Whiz autonomous floor-cleaning machine operates during a demonstration.Photographer: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg

SoftBank Group Corp. has put billions of dollars into a laser-based technology that could allow cars to drive themselves and help astronauts land on distant planets. It turns out that same technology makes a pretty good vacuum cleaner.

Engineers at SoftBank Robotics have spent years applying lidar, which accurately maps distances in real-time, to carpet cleaning. The result is Whiz, a sort of ultra-high-end Roomba that SoftBank will start selling to companies in the U.S. on Tuesday for $499 a month.