Robot vacuums have always been dubiously “smart” to the average person. Sure, the higher end models do a pretty good job of automated cleaning, but the cheaper models tend to be more hit and miss. But today iRobot released a new AI platform for its wifi-connected Roombas and Brava jet robots that might make it worth buying a cheaper and more affordable robot cleaner.
After 30 years of tinkering with robots, iRobot has released its new iRobot Genius Home Intelligence platform, which also includes a redesigned iRobot app. It’s a fancy name that boils down to smarter, more personalized automation. This will vary depending on Roomba – unsurprisingly, premium models will have more advanced features than affordable models – but the whole is still impressive.
Advanced Roombas like the i7 / i7 + and s9 / s9 +, as well as the Braava Jet m6, were already capable of methodical navigation, mapping and empty their own bins in a massive base. Now they will also have the option of having specifically designated “clean zones” suggested by machine learning. Clean areas can be based on specific furniture that is prone to damage, like a sofa or dining table – in essence, it’s spot cleaning. They will also benefit from “Recommended Prohibited Zones”. No-go zones aren’t new, but what’s different here is that bots will learn on their own over time which areas to stay away from. Finally, premium robots will also be able to learn and recommend room-specific cleaning schedules, such as vacuuming the kitchen after dinner or cleaning the hallway on Wednesday afternoons.
Great, but also – yawn. iRobot has been teasing this stuff since it introduced mapping in 2018. Plus, you’d expect flashy features on high-end products to justify the bonkers cost. More interesting is the technology that carries over to cheaper robots. With the iRobot update, cheaper wifi-enabled robot cleaners will benefit from event automations via IFTTT and their favorite routines. The former means that if you have other smart gadgets, you can make them “talk” to each other. So if my cat’s litter robot completes a cycle, then it could trigger Roomba to start cleaning. So maybe, just maybe, I could someday live in a house without random trash. More reasonably, if you have a smart lock, your Roomba will know how to start cleaning when you leave and stop when you get home. As for favorite routines, you can create preset routines like “after dinner” or “bedtime” to clean up at specific times. iRobot also includes seasonal recommendations, so you can get tips for planning more frequent cleaning during allergy or pet shedding seasons.
It may not sound like much, but these new planning options are neat. The cheaper robot vacuum cleaners not only lacked wifi, but the planning had to be done through crappy remotes that didn’t work half the time. It got better with wifi, but just a few years ago you had to shell out at least $ 800 for a bot connected to wifi. Now wifi connectivity can be found on budget robot cleaners under $ 300. However, much of the app’s functionality on cheaper robots was limited to manually setting up schedules. Pretty easy, right? Not always. If you had a variable routine and forgot to manually change the schedule, you could end up with a disaster. I once brought a crafty Roomba into my office. Because I forgot to turn off his nighttime cleaning schedule, he ended up wandering into the next office, where my work neighbors summarily attempted to kidnap him. A custody battle ensued. Something like automating events with a smart lock could help avoid this, or at least provide more intuitive scheduling options.
Still, iRobot’s update won’t change the fact that its most ‘affordable’ robot vacuums are boating disasters that ping pong your room for no rhyme or reason, occasionally destroying furniture by knocking on it and probably missing the mess you wanted. clean up first. (I once tested a Roomba 600 series that flipped over on a dining chair chasing a dust bunny. It was the same one that took a nap.) Not worth it. really worth it if the connected features are limited to a paper. thin application, although the robot vacuum is inexpensive. Having said that, I hate vacuuming with the blazing fire of a thousand dying suns. I would be willing to accept random navigation if I had more options to control the robot. What this update provides.
That won’t be enough for some people – I’ll admit it, watching a cheaper robot vacuum continuously miss the ONLY AREA you want it to clean is excruciating. But at least now you can get more for your money. (By the way, where the heck is iRobot cute lil lawn bot?)