This Roomba Maps Your House So it Won't Keep Ramming Into Your Sofa

By Bryan Lufkin on at

It’s not going to mow your lawn, but the freshly revealed, Wi-Fi-friendly Roomba 980 can be controlled by your smartphone, plus uses a camera and sensors to create a map of your home.

iRobot revealed the new ‘bot at an event this week in New York. The idea of a robot being able to map out your home was a topic repeatedly highlighted at the event, and the huge robotics company says its latest Roomba can do just that. Using visual localisation and cloud-connected app control, the robot can paint itself a better picture of how your home is laid out. Where are the lamps? Where are steps? Where’s Fido’s dog dish? Aunt Mabel’s hand-blown vase? Et cetera.

The trusty sweeper cleans for up to two hours, before automatically roaming back to its charging station. The company says that it’s outfitted with sensors that’ll make the Roomba spontaneously adjust its cleaning patterns in order to avoid running into moved furniture or crap on the ground.

This Roomba Maps Your House So It Won't Keep Ramming Into Your Couch

Like all robots, this sort of on-the-fly learning is the biggest challenge in the field right now. Sure, it’s one thing to plop an industrial bottle cap-screwer on an assembly line and program it to do the same thing, in the same spot, day in and day out. But granting machines the ability to adapt to changing situations is tough. That’s why the idea of a maid-type humanoid assistant is such a daunting technical task.

This Roomba Maps Your House So It Won't Keep Ramming Into Your Couch

iRobot is also tapping into the ‘bot zeitgeist by making the 980 a member of your “smart” home; an appliance that operates within the Internet of Things. The company’s new cloud-based Home app, available for Android and iOS devices, lets you schedule cleaning time for the robot 24/7 from any location.

Speaking of changing environments, the 980 can figure out what kind of surface it’s on at any given time—and if it’s a carpet or rug, it kicks into high gear, automatically doubling the power it expends. Optical and acoustic sensors help it sniff out places on the ground where there’s a particularly large pile of dirt, as well.

This Roomba Maps Your House So It Won't Keep Ramming Into Your Couch

It ain’t cheap, unfortunately. $899 is its US starting price – with no current clues on what price tag it will bear when it shimmies into the UK market. That’s another big roadblock in keeping robots from exploding into the next must-have consumer electronic, as we’ve discussed before: high price points.

Plus, for me, it didn’t seem that different from other Roombas. It’ll take a hands-on review to know for sure whether it can avoid objects, or remember where stuff in your house is. But the 980 seems to be tackling a lot of the roadblocks in robotics today. And that’s good! Looks like we’ll still have to wait a while for that smart lawnmower, though.

This Roomba Maps Your House So It Won't Keep Ramming Into Your Couch


Images courtesy iRobot and Gizmodo