Earlier, it was the NeatoRobotic’s Botvac that could map rooms and clean them efficiently. Not anymore. iRobot has created a new vacuum cleaner robot that can map rooms as well. But they claim that their technology is much more sophisticated and better.
The new Roomba 980 does not employ lasers emitting turrets like the Botvac. Instead, it uses a variety of electronic sensors and a low-resolution camera to form a map of the room it is programmed to clean. It builds the map while simultaneously cleaning the room. This technology has been named as vSLAM or Visual Simultaneous Localization and Mapping. vSLAM allows the Roomba 980 to visualize the entire room and the environment inside. It actually knows the physical location of the room in the map. The low-resolution camera is focused at the horizon and the Roomba retrieves light and dark patterns of light. This way it comes to know of the walls, edges, furniture etc. in the room and their exact location. It can use this information to avoid collisions and clean the room efficiently.
The Roomba is powered by a Lithium-ion battery which lasts for an entire floor cleaning job and more. The robot is capable of returning to its base on its own for recharging, whenever needed. In addition to this, the Roomba features floor tracking sensors that can measure the distance travelled by the robot as well as the direction in which it is headed with respect to the constructed map. Knowing where it’s headed enables the Roomba to take the shortest path to its destination that does not involve collisions with walls or furniture.
How long does it take to clean up a room depends on the area to be covered. It can clean a floor for two hours on a single recharge. What is even more cool is that the cleaner can be controlled using your Android smartphones and iPhones as it features Wi-Fi connectivity. This means that you can control your Roomba from any place that gives you internet access. You can program it, commence its clean up routine and can also access iRobot customer care for assistance. iRobot’s CEO Colin Angle says, “Roomba’s mission is to clean, which is not as exciting as Lewis and Clark,” “But nonetheless very important”, he adds.
The Roomba 980 has been on sale since September 17. It is available in Wi-Fi and non-WiFi variants. The Wi-Fi enabled variant costs around $800.