IRobot’s newest Roomba uses AI to prevent dog poop

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Using a robot hoover has always been a bit dangerous for pet owners. It can be a problem having a Robovac do it in your absence when your not perfectly trained dog or cat is also on the go. A quick Google search for “Roomba dog poop” gives you an idea of ​​what the result can be when careless robots, with spinning brushes, plunge into chaos and lavishly spread it around the house.

But now, Roomba maker iRobot says it has fixed that scatological problem. The company’s newest Robovac, the Roomba j7 +, uses built-in machine vision and AI to detect and avoid pets of all types. “It’s a big deal for us,” Colin Angle, founder and CEO of iRobot, told The Verge. “We worked on it for a long time and we guarantee that it will work.”

“We guarantee that it will work”

This last point is particularly important. Competing Robovacs like the Roborock S6 MaxV and the 360 ​​Smart Life robotic vacuum cleaner advertise the same clutter avoidance skills, but Angle is skeptical that they are completely reliable. He says iRobot has been working on the problem for years and even created a huge database of fake pets to train their AI vision systems.

“Robotics is supposed to be glamorous, but I don’t know how many Kot Play Doh models we’ve developed,” says Angle. “Many, many thousands.” However, the result is an unwavering confidence in the company’s ability to identify feces. “Our competition claims they do too, but it’s more like [they do it] at CES with the right lighting, ”he says. “We felt the need to really put a spanner in the works and say, this is real, it’s not a gimmick. If you have a pet, we won’t let you down here. “

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The fact that dog poop avoidance is the headline feature of iRobot’s latest robotic vacuum cleaner gives some clues about the issues and advances with these devices. They’ve certainly become more efficient and useful over the years, but there are still some basic teething troubles that show up when the rubber hits the carpet.

An upgrade to iRobot’s Genius software offers new cleaning modes and functions

iRobot hopes to fix some of these issues with an update to its navigation and control software known as iRobot Genius. Originally introduced in August last year for compatible Roombas, this not only maps users’ homes to provide more detailed cleaning instructions, but also uses built-in image processing to identify furniture and specific “clean areas”.

Version 3.0 of iRobot Genius, which launches today as a free upgrade, adds a number of new features. This includes a “Quiet Drive” mode that prevents the robot from making noise when driving to and from cleaning work; Estimates of cleaning time for specific rooms; improved mapping skills, including suggested room names based on the robot’s ability to identify furniture; and a new function “clean up while I’m away”. That said, if people want, they can allow iRobot to access their phone location and initiate a cleaning session every time they leave the house.

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The biggest update, however, only affects the new Roomba j7 +, which with a new camera detects not only dog ​​poop, but also other dangerous obstacles such as socks, shoes and headphones. Again, this is done with the help of built-in image processing, but it requires some action on the part of the owner. If the Roomba finds an unexpected obstacle, it asks via the connected app whether it is a temporary or permanent setup. If it’s permanent (like dangling TV cables) the device will automatically create a no-clean zone for it.

As Angle explains, the point is that iRobot products “feel like a partner” rather than a tool – trustworthy services that can anticipate what owners want. “The idea is we know what time it is, we know where we are at home, and we have an idea of ​​the layout of the rooms,” he says. “We should start by applying respectful rules to our technology and subjecting our technology to the same kind of accountability that we hold for each other at home.”

In this way, the company also wants to differentiate itself from cheaper competitors. The new Roomba j7 + costs $ 849 with a base station that can hold dirt for up to 60 days, which is many times the price of simple Robovacs. Angle says iRobot’s free software upgrades, now and in the future, should help convince customers to choose them.

In addition to the features listed above, the new Roomba j7 + also has a new high-end design, a simplified control system (three buttons instead of one), Bluetooth LE capability to simplify onboarding, and a new beveled edge that doesn’t put the machine under Cabinets and refrigerators get stuck. Roomba j7 + is on sale today in the US and Canada through iRobot’s website and will be available at select retailers starting September 19th. It can also be purchased without the cleaning base station for $ 649.

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