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Airbnb acquires off-beat sensor startup Lapka

Lapka, a small Russian hardware startup devoted to turning sensors like Geiger counters into luxury items, may never have struck a chord with the mainstream consumer, but it was certainly quirky enough to catch the eye of certain design-conscious nerds. It also caught the attention of apartment rental company Airbnb — to such a degree that Airbnb bought the startup today for an undisclosed sum.

Lapka CEO Vadik Marmeladov expressed excitement about the acquisition, but mostly avoided specifics. In an official blog post, he wrote, "What we’re capable of building together is beyond explanation, so let’s leave that for later news. The future is long." Airbnb, for its part, tells Wired that it bought Lapka in order to take advantage of their unique skills. "Since the moment Lapka launched their first product," said Airbnb cofounder Joe Gebbia, "I have been inspired by their impressive design sensibilities — a combination of beauty, form, and story."

"The future is long."

All this is good-sounding news. However, it's still unclear where this partnership is heading. Indeed, after expounding about the two companies' shared passion for design, Marmeladov wrote that Lapka is closing up shop and discontinuing operations. That probably means the Lapka module for Google's Project Ara modular smartphone won't ever see release. It's still early days, though. Could Lapka's sensor know-how combine with Airbnb's new use of machine learning to make stays more pleasant (and lucrative)? It certainly seems possible.