Highend Roombas getting massive intelligence boost

High-end Roomba robot vacuum cleaners are set to receive a firmware upgrade which will make them massively more intelligent, says iRobot.

The company says that while today’s robot cleaners are smart in machine terms, they are very dumb compared to a human cleaner, and that’s what the company plans to change …

Robot vacuum cleaners are smart in the way they can create their own map of a home layout and plan an efficient route to clean it. But iRobot CEO Colin Angle told The Verge that they are still frustratingly dumb in human terms.

“Imagine you had a cleaning person come to your home and you couldn’t talk to them,” he says. “You couldn’t tell them when to show up and where to clean. You’d get really frustrated! And it’s the same thing going on with the robots.”

And while they have a map of your home, they don’t know the names of specific rooms, or specific areas, so you can’t simply instruct them to clean the kitchen. iRobot says its upgraded robots will, and will even recognize pieces of furniture.

They’ll use machine vision and built-in cameras to identify specific pieces of furniture in your house, like couches, tables, and kitchen counters. As the robot logs these objects, it’ll make suggestions to the user to add them to its internal map as “clean zones” — specific areas of your house you can direct your Roomba to clean, either via the app or a connected digital assistant like Alexa.

“So right after the kids eat is the perfect time to say ‘clean under the dining room table,’ because there’s shrapnel everywhere under there, but you don’t need to clean the whole kitchen,” iRobot’s chief product officer, Keith Hartsfield, tells The Verge.

That capability will also keep the robots out of trouble.

 In addition to “clean zones,” Roombas will also identify “keep out zones.” If the robot keeps on getting stuck on a tangle of cables under your TV stand for example, it’ll suggest to users to mark this as a keep out zone to avoid in future. 

If you have an August smart lock, you can tell high-end Roomba machines to begin cleaning when you leave home. When, you know, we start doing that again.

You can read more about the new capabilities in the full piece, but it doesn’t reveal when we can expect the updates to be available. We do, though, know which models will get it.

Only those which support mapping features will be able to set up specific zones and suggest new cleaning schedules (that includes the Roomba i7, i7+, s9, and s9+, and the Braava jet m6 robomop). Other features like event-based automation and favorite cleaning routines will be available to all other Wi-Fi connected Roombas.

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