Roomba is easily one of the most ubiquitous robots in the world, but it’s never been one of the smartest. Overall, this is not a major problem. The best-selling vacuum cleaner is good at what it does – cleaning floors. But the job of a roboticist is never finished; iRobot has put the vast majority of its attention and resources on the line for good reason, and the company has spent virtually every generation improving the robot’s ability to perform its very specific task.
This time around, that means using onboard sensors to memorize areas of the house and layout, as well as areas that require a little extra cleaning time.
“We’ve enabled continuous learning, so if you’ve made a difference in your home, Roomba will understand,” CEO Colin Angle told TechCrunch. “If you open a door you’ve never opened before, Roomba will go explore it.” If you’ve moved a sofa, he’ll understand that the house is a little different than it used to be, and that’s okay. The information we collect is enriched.
The other big piece of this puzzle is identifying and avoiding specific objects. The company claims to have worked on identifying hundreds of potential objects, but begins with two specific issues: ropes and poo. The two are big potential problems for a robotic vacuum system, although for radically different reasons. Either way, you don’t want to have to get on all fours and deal with the fallout.
In the case of the former, iRobot created an acronym – and a warranty. With Pet Owner Official Promise (POOP), the company announced that it will replace any j7 + that crushes a dookie pet. (In fine print: Offer valid for 1 year from purchase and covers replacement product only. Available in limited jurisdictions, additional terms and conditions apply.)
“You can find this on Google and see some not-so-nice examples of robots running on poop,” says Hooman Shahidi, director of product management at iRobot. “We have solved this problem with consumers. If we see animal droppings, we avoid it and let consumers know that we have seen it. “
Angle adds, “The glorious career of roboticists may not have been fully realized when we sent people home and created hundreds of poo models. Send people to photograph and create synthetic models of poo. I don’t know how many tens of thousands of images of all different shapes and sizes of synthetic images were needed, but it clearly isn’t demo code. We can’t pee. It has to have some 3D aspects, but it’s something we think you can rely on so that the robot can identify it and avoid it.
The third element is planning, with the system adapting to the activities of a user. This could mean cleaning up while you’re away (using your phone as a proximity trigger) or making sure it avoids the rooms you’re in. If the robot has to pass through the house, it will drive quietly and not start until it has actually started its job. The system now also offers a cleaning time estimate to inform the user of the working time.
The j7 is now available in the US and Canada for $ 649. The j7 +, which includes a more compact cleaning base, will cost $ 849. They are also available in Europe and will be rolled out in other markets next year. Genius 3.0, meanwhile, will be available as an OTA update for the rest of the company’s connected robots.