iRobot, the company specializing in robots such as Roomba vacuum cleaners and Braava floor cleaners, has launched its new Genius Home Intelligence platform, which introduces functions such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and smart suggestions to offer more control to the user over where, when and how to clean their household robot vacuum cleaner.
The company, with 1,200 workers, has already exceeded one million robots sold in Germany, France, Spain and Italy and its business grew in 2019 at a rate of 22% compared to the previous year, in turn achieving a market share of the 67%.
These are figures that Colin Angle, the CEO of iRobot, recounts, who has no qualms about admitting that, in the same way that they did well last year, this year they have it more raw because of COVID-19. “60% of our business is retail, physical stores”, which are closed.
Angle, however, anticipates that since we are now more at home, they also want them to be cleaner, so the use of robot vacuum cleaners has been maintained and they will even have a slight growth in 2020.
Due to these circumstances, they have decided to give a twist to the very concept of their robot vacuum cleaners without having to launch new models: what changes is the user’s relationship with them, because beyond asking them to clean at their own pace when They are programmed to do so, with the new Genius Home Intelligence platform they can program specific actions.
For example, let’s say you have cats, as is my case. You hear that one has left the sandbox and, knowing that it always throws sand out when it leaves, you decide to ask the Roomba to take a quick pass in the sandbox area. Now this is possible, and you can even give the order through Alexa or the Google Assistant, not just through the official iRobot app.
In Angle’s words: “The intelligence of robots must free itself from the limits of autonomy”, that is, they must know how to move on their own, but also understand better with their owners.
A VERSION 1.0
The Genius Home Intelligence functions, in its first version 1.0, have been added through the iRobot Home application for Android and iOS, which is redesigned and integrates customization functions for each user, with different cleaning programs and integration of voice commands via Amazon’s Alexa and the Google Assistant.
“The Roomba used to be too good to be true,” says Angle, who recalls that in order to sell them in the past, they had to be listed as a supplement to your regular cleaning, not a substitute. “People did not believe it.” But times have changed and “now he is surrounded by devices as magical as him, such as smart speakers or mobile phones. And people have become impatient for the house to be clean.” Hence, now there has been greater control of the Roomba.
Among the main novelties of the system are the precision cleaning zones. The platform automatically detects the areas of the house that get the most dirty, such as the kitchen, dining room or around the sofa, and makes the cleaning of the appliance focus on them.
With this function, robots will be able to remember where a table is located and ask users if they want it to be cleaned, so that certain areas can be cleaned in five minutes instead of having to clean the entire room and taking two hours, per example.
IRobot Roomba robots will also detect when no one is home to prioritize cleaning at this time and not disturb the user. The function operates by detecting when the owner goes out through the home’s IoT devices.
Among the other functionalities are the recommended programs, which detect usage patterns and make suggestions for cleaning programs to users on a regular basis.
All these changes come from the iRobot studies, because according to Angle, it turns out that “consumers did not want a fully automatic Roomba, they wanted to be able to control it as best as possible and tell it where, when and how to clean.”
FAVORITES AND EXCLUSION ZONES
Another new feature is bookmarking, which would allow users to set cleaning routines that are stored in the app and that can be run separately from full cleaning. Clean kitchen, bathroom and living room, but not the whole house, for example.
But the most striking thing is that, using the information that the robot knows about you, such as the hours you go to work and you are not at home, it can only determine when to go out to clean without being disturbed by noise or movement of the Roomba.
To customize the cleaning mode, the robots will advise users to stay out of so-called ‘exclusion zones’, such as wired areas or under the bed, where it can get stuck. After having problems three times, the system issues a suggestion in the app to the user that they can accept or reject.
Also, iRobot robots will offer suggestions based on the date of the year to clean more often in the season of allergies or pet hair loss, for example. These routines will be automatically removed once these dates have passed.
Angle makes it clear that this new application and service behind the Roomba is totally free and that it is not a subscription model. Their business model still relies on you buying the robot vacuum cleaners.
The new app with all these news is available from today, August 25, for Android and iOS, although not all Roomba on the market will be compatible with these news. Only robots with built-in memory work with Genius Home Intelligence.