Room-bot

iRobot updates the Roomba’s “brain,” betting its OS can be a differentiator in the crowded smart-home space

Thursday, June 2, 2022 by Snacks

Sounds like a sci-fi thriller... actually a vacuum company. iRobot is the publicly traded consumer robot biz famous for Roomba (aka: the popular self-driving vacuum). Its sales soared for a while during the pandemic as homebound and hygiene-conscious adults ordered smart vacuums to clean up after their kids. But iRobot's US revenue growth has been slowing. Now:

  • New brain: iRobot just revamped its robo-vacuum operating system to lay the foundation for a more sophisticated understanding of your home life. iRobot Genius, its AI platform for smart vacuums and mops, is now iRobot OS.
  • Features include the ability to identify and dodge phone chargers, stray T-shirts, and dog poop. With computer vision iRobot’s newest vac can also understand specific commands like "clean under kitchen table." Also: preferences like extra sweeps during pet-shedding season and fewer sweeps for the guest room.

Competing for Fluffy's approval... Roomba isn't the only one: last year Amazon rolled out a $1K Alexa-powered robot named Astro (aka: a 10-inch tablet on wheels). Smart-device adoption has surged thanks to speakers from Amazon and Google, along with thermostats, security cams, and light dimmers. iRobot's vacuums work with Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri voice commands — but it may not be enough to win in the increasingly crowded market.

THE TAKEAWAY

Intelligence is useless without context… at least in the smart-home space. iRobot’s CEO told The Verge that the primary differentiator of a home robot is intelligence (aka: software brain vs. hardware body). Key to that is context — a deep understanding of your home and habits. Think: air purifiers understanding when a room is empty before going into noisy turbo mode (iRobot’s working on it). In the future, we’re picturing showers that turn on at your preferred temp when you wake.

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