Hands-on with the smarter, WiFi-equipped Roomba 980

19 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

New robotic vacuum cleaner that use a camera to map your house – Roomba 980.

And while the Roomba 980, which went on sale September 17, has a lot of interesting tech upgrades, they all point to one immutable fact: The consumer bot maker that started it all has changed its thinking on how best to clean a floor with a robot vacuum.Bebford, Mass: iRobot, the leader in delivering robotic technology-based solutions, has launched a new model of its signature vacuum cleaner – Roomba 980 vacuum cleaning robot.

With the first iteration of the Robo-vac Roomba, iRobot Corp. developed the iAdapt system, which allowed the device to move around the house, cleaning and vacuuming in a zig zag pattern without bumping into things and avoiding pitfalls.Robotics giant iRobot has launched an all new Vacuum Cleaner which is enabled with a technology which can make the machine see and then clean areas at one’s house.It is also the first Roomba to combine adaptive navigation with visual localization, cloud connected app control, and increased cleaning power on carpets, helping people to keep cleaner floors throughout the entire home at the push of a button. “Roomba 980 is the next big step as it marks iRobot’s first cloud connected product with mapping capabilities for the consumer market,” said Colin Angle, chairman and chief executive officer of iRobot, in a press release. “Leveraging the cloud and mapping technologies, robots gain a better understanding of their environment, and customers are provided with more control.Roomba 980: A new robotic vacuum cleaner that use a camera to map your house. this new iRobot’s robotic vacuum line-up points to keep your furniture and walls dent-free, as it uses its web connection and camera to build a map of your house. Well you’re about to become one–iRobot, the company that pioneered the autonomous house cleaning space, has just outed a new version of their popular house cleaning bot.

Looking ahead, these technologies will also enable expanded capabilities for connected robots in the smart home.” The robotic cleaner incorporates a low-res video camera to help it map the house as it learns the layout of rooms and location of objects like furniture and household items. With Roomba 980, iRobot is implementing its proprietary visual simultaneous localization and mapping (vSLAM®) technology for the first time in a consumer product.

If you’ve ever seen a Roomba in action, you could be forgiven for thinking it was a curious, free-spirited explorer that eschewed straight lines and planned routes. Using the map, Roomba 980 will run continuously for up to two hours, then automatically return to its Home Base to recharge and resume until the cleaning is done. The camera is a low-res version, used only to give it the ability to detect shapes and objects in the surroundings and the camera is not for spying on you, which would be quite freaky. Roombas bounce around seemingly at random, making arbitrary-looking course corrections and taking a “thousand monkeys typing on a thousand typewriters” approach to cleaning floors — keep at it long enough, the job will get done. Keep in mind that you cannot manually control it (though it remains a possibility, if the company decides to include it via an update), but you can schedule cleanings in certain areas via the app.

But the most surprising upgrade is iAdapt 2.0 technology, which essentially allows the vacuum cleaner to map the entire room using an array of installed sensors and cameras, and smart processing algorithm. The device knows what type of surface it is trundling over and automatically doubling its suction power when it passes over carpets, and iRobot alleged that it is also able to detect particularly large piles of dirt. By influencing the randomness of Roomba’s movements just enough, iRobot’s engineers have figured out how to give previous generations of their bot a good chance of covering an entire room without incorporating robust controls and expensive mapping technology. iRobot calls its approach iAdapt Responsive Cleaning Technology, which is a proprietary stew of algorithms that dictate strategies like random walk-angle changing and spiral cleaning, and that add up to full coverage of an average home space. Where iAdapt 1.0 was based on guesswork and was programmed to avoid falls, the new technology uses a mapping technology like Project Tango, creating a virtual blueprint of the room. If the battery of the robot cleaner is fully charged it allows the cleaner two hours of battery backup time before automatically returns to its charging station. the robot cleaner also couples with an app that lets you program cleaning cycles and even set it motion remotely via the Internet.

The approach is based on the philosophy, championed by iRobot co-founder (and current CEO of Rethink Robotics) Rodney Brooks, that robots can operate effectively in many situations with simple behavior controls. For instance, users can command their Roomba to clean the house when they are at the office and the kids are in school, so that nobody trips over the circular robot while it does its job. The robo-vac foregoes the zigzag cleaning pattern in favour of a more efficient route to go about the room, moving in parallels wherever possible, earning more distance travelled with the same 2-hour battery life. And with the rapid development of cheap sensor technology and onboard computing power, which are helping to drive the current boom in robotics, mapping has become far more feasible and affordable recently.

It does not allow users to use their smartphones as a remote control to direct the Roomba around, a feature that is present in the Roomba competitor Neato BotVac. The discontinued Electrolux Trilobite was an early entrant in this category, and the reigning king of room mapping vacuum robots is Neato Robotics, whose latest unit uses lasers to visualize the space around it and create a map to ensure that it’s covering the entire floor plan of a room. It has virtual wall barriers to confine it to cleaning only a certain space, and it can detect the edge of a staircase to keep it from falling off the stairs.

But that’s raised some questions about privacy and prompted concern that Roomba’s camera could be hijacked, or that its maps could fall into the wrong hands. For the sake of stretching the imagination, let’s say those hands belong to a jewel thief who needs to know the exact layout of your living room in order to avoid all your poisonous darts and trip wires. If you have kids at home who can be bought, bartered with, or sentenced to vacuuming duty, that still looks like the most cost-effective autonomous solution.

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