In 2002, iRobot launched the first version of its robotic vacuum cleaner, Roomba. Automating the tedious and mundane task of cleaning floors – it has since been a staple purchase for households across America. With small improvements in every generation, iRobot has steadily incorporated user-friendly functionalities into the gadget. In 2016, the founder and CEO of iRobot, Colin Angle, claimed that 20% of the world’s vacuum cleaners were robots, with the Roomba accounting for 70% of that global market. However, the company hopes to increase its market share with the latest version of its Roomba, the Roomba i7+, which exhibits a few striking and breakthrough features that makes it even easier to manage and use.
One of the new functionalities available in the new Roomba i7+ is its auto-emptying feature. In the previous versions of the gadget, one had to manually open and empty out its garage bag – a task that involved inhaling a chunk of the dust that it accumulated from the house floor. To circumvent this problem, the i7+ comes with an advanced charging station that holds a large one-time-use trash bin. Each time the Roomba returns to its base for a charge, a hopper attached to the charging station sucks the dirt out of the garbage bag onto the trash bin. According to iRobot, the trash bin is capable of holding dirt from 30 cleanings. Thus, a user has to empty it out once every month and replace it with a new trash bin, priced at a modest $5.
The new Roomba i7+ also possess an advanced room mapping feature. By using a combination of odometry (to calculate how much the Roomba’s wheels have turned) and a low-resolution camera (to recognize light and dark patterns created by objects in the room), the i7+ is able to map the floor plan of all the rooms in the house. The feature was first introduced in the 900 series, but unlike it, the i7+ remembers the plan by storing it in its memory. This not only ensures a faster clean but also enables the Roomba to automatically find its charging station and carry out its auto-emptying feature.
Its common knowledge, that some rooms of the house require more cleaning than the others. As the i7+ stores the floor plans in its memory, it becomes easier for users to customize cleaning schedules. The device also has the option to integrate itself with various home assistant devices. Thus, a user can manage Roomba using only his/her voice. A command like – “Hey Google, schedule a cleaning of the living room and the kitchen at 5:00 PM today” will ensure that you come home after work to a squeaky clean floor.
iRobot has also claimed that the i7+ possesses twice the suction power of the 900 series, enabling it to suck up more dirt at one go. Its new rubber brushes are designed to work on carpets and hard floors, entangling less frequently than previous brushes with bristles. Finally, it’s also relatively quieter than its predecessors, enabling a user to watch a movie while the i7+ does its job.
The idea of a robotic vacuum cleaner storing maps of their home might be worrying to potential customers. However, iRobot has addressed this issue with great detail. Although the floor plans do get shared in the cloud (while using Wi-Fi enabled home assistant devices) and across other IoT devices, securing such data remains the top priority for the company.
With a market price of $949, the Roomba i7+ remains on the high-end of the spectrum for vacuum bots. Nonetheless, with its myriad functionalities, it’s one gadget that could potentially change household dynamics.