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Roomba gets ‘genius’ upgrade with an AI that identifies furniture and spill-prone areas

The Roomba just got a brain transplant, courtesy of artificial intelligence, which gives owner’s increased control over how, when and where their vacuums clean. 

Using iRobot’s new Genius Home Intelligence platform, Roomba maps the entire home, identifies individual pieces of furniture and suggests cleaning routines and schedules.

The rolling vacuum uses machine vision and built-in cameras to maneuver throughout a space.

Owners designate ‘clean zones,’ high-traffic areas prone to messes and spills, like around kitchen counters and coffee tables, and customize ‘keep out’ areas to avoid. 

Robot vacuums have become increasingly popular in recent years as prices have dropped and competition has increased. Last year, iRobot sold more than 9 million Roombas. 

And pandemic lockdowns have only given many people more time to notice crumbs and dust bunnies. 

But customization options have always been limited compared to other smart devices, says iRobot, maker of Roomba,mk CEO Colin Angle. 

‘Imagine you had a cleaning person come to your home and you couldn’t talk to them,’ Angle told The Verge. 

‘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.’

 While Roomba’s sensors can already detect obstacles, steep drop-offs and dirty spots, Angle says the upgrade is a complete overhaul of the device’s ‘brain.’

‘It’s a lobotomy and replacement of the intelligence systems in all of our robots.’

The revamped bots are more collaborative, learning habits and home layouts to make improvements. 

They can suggest certain days and times for cleaning, like after dinner, or even make seasonal recommendations, like frequent cleanings during pet-shedding season.

iRobot has also worked to better integrate its vacuums and mops with other connected devices, like smart locks and virtual assistants. 

So your Roomba can know to wait to start until after you’ve left for work.

‘Robotic intelligence must break free from the limits of autonomy and become true cleaning partners,’ Angle said in a statement. 

‘Our robot intelligence is personalized and responsive to the user’s habits and preferences, giving them greater control over when, where and how their robots clean.’

Some new features are only available on newer models: The Roomba i7/i7+ and s9/s9+ robot vacuums, and the Braava jet m6 robot mop, can be programmed with clean zones, for example.

Others, like favorite cleaning routines, are available for all Wi-Fi-enabled Roombas. 

While smart devices have increasingly fallen prey to hackers, Angle insists Roomba owners don’t have to worry about privacy or security issues.

The images the vacuum takes aren’t transmitted anywhere and are only stored for a few seconds. And the Roomba’s AI converts specific layouts into abstract maps.

‘If someone stole the data all they’d know is that you have a room called ‘kitchen’ and something in it called a ‘kitchen table,’ Angle told the Verge. ‘Our goal is that if anyone ever hacks us, they’ll be profoundly disappointed.’

iRobot’s Genius Home Intelligence and updated iRobot Home App are available worldwide Tuesday via software update. 

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