The latest update from the American company connects its devices to the rest of the house and offers more personalization to users
“It is not a product. It’s a leap forward in robotic intelligence, ”says Colin Angle. The executive director of iRobot is about to unveil -by video call- the company’s new big bet: Robot Genius Home Intelligence. This platform will be integrated into its flagship devices, the Roomba vacuum cleaner and the Braava scrubber, with the aim of expanding the scope of its tasks. “Over the last twelve months, people have gone from being skeptical to believing that robots are the future of vacuum. They are impatient for them to do more things, ”says Angle.
The system will be installed in the next software update -available from today- of all the connected devices of the brand , without the need to acquire a new one (although some functions are limited to the most recent models), and will offer a greater control of where, when and how they clean their robots. The Roombas and Braavas of the world will release a kind of renewed brain with which they intend to improve their knowledge and management of the different spaces of the house, adjust to the routines of the users, and adapt to the different seasons (allergies, hair changes … ). Angle describes the proposal as a mode of “collaborative intelligence” in which the robot is more prepared to listen to the human.
How do these new skills take shape? When it comes to where to clean, the novelty is called Clean Zones. This functionality will allow cleaners to identify the areas of the house with the highest tendency to get dirty and users to delimit them manually. Once this is done, it will be enough to select those areas in the application so that Roomba knows where it has to go. Whoever has voice assistants like Alexa or Google at their service has the option of requesting the cleaning out loud: “Alexa, tell Roomba to clean under the kitchen table.”
In a near reverse scenario, robots will be able to detect patterns from where they tend to get stuck to suggest them as exclusion zones that they could avoid at clean-up time.
On a day-to-day basis, the new platform aims to make iRobot devices understand when is the best time to start the mess. “A large percentage of scheduled cleanup missions are canceled. Customers were telling us that they ended up trying to fit their lives around Roomba’s schedules, ”admits Angle. The robots will offer a more flexible programming mode, not adapted to hours, but to specific events. For example, you can enable “after dinner” cleaning and specify that it includes only the kitchen.
Connection with other devices
In the houses where possible and in order to avoid collisions, the cleaners will confirm that their owners have been collecting data from other connected devices, such as the smart lock on the front door, the alarm, or the light bulbs. This option requires having these types of connected devices at home and giving permission to iRobot to initiate the exchange of data between them.
Can this pose an additional security risk ? According to Angle, there is no reason why: “The General Data Protection Regulation falls short compared to our commitment to the client,” he says. The company promises not to sell any of the data collected by its robots and its director ensures that everything that is sent to the cloud is encrypted. “Also, we only save the minimum we need to make the robot work. Even if you found a way to access all the information, you would be very disappointed, ”he insists.
Finally, Roombas and Braavas will add recommendations associated with each time of the year. If it’s allergy season, or shedding for pets, how high is the pollen concentration for that day … and they will propose more or less cleanings based on this.
Search for benefits
The iRobot co-founder, with 30 years of experience in the home robotics market, is more than used to seeing knockoffs flourish in a long list of rival brands, but now he’s more optimistic than ever. “We believe that this new strategy will give us more advantage. We are doing a thousand very difficult things using artificial intelligence, ”he explains, convinced that he has a good base of loyal customers. “Do you want your data exposed with a Chinese company?” Whoever does not want to see their data anywhere, can also choose not to activate the update. “You will never have to share with us anything you don’t want to give us.”
In the medium term, iRobot’s plan for the future is to continue adding new functionality to Robot Genius Home Intelligence every six months. In the long term, Angle intends to advance towards his vision of a house “capable of programming itself and without its inhabitants having to be scientists”. In that home, Roombas and Braavas aspire to be the faithful helpers who best know the tastes and routines of their humans.