Best known for its popular Roomba range of robotic vacuums, iRobot has announced two major events for 2022 – a major OS update and a new model with a unique retractable mopping mechanism.
This news is the first major development we have seen from the manufacturer since news came out in August 2022 regarding its acquisition by Amazon. IRobot is also using this moment to celebrate the 20th anniversary of its first Roomba in 2002.
We spoke to Praj Dhamorikar, Senior Product Manager, about the new iRobot platform, its latest combo cleaner, and how we should think about iRobot’s new owner, Amazon.
Convertible in the vacuum robot market
The most glorious announcement comes in the form of iRobot’s new Roomba Combo; Roomba Combo j7 +. The Roomba Combo j7 + will cost $ 1,099 in the US, £ 999 in the UK and international markets will be available in the fourth quarter of 2022.
This is not the first iRobot combination vacuum cleaner, but it is a step towards innovation in cleaning technology.
The Roomba Combo j7 + with its cool new mop design offers “hassle-free switching” with a top-mounted retractable mop that will automatically raise and dock as the machine moves from hard floors to carpets or rugs, preventing wet debris. To save time, the device can vacuum and wash at the same time.
This feature also means that users will not have to regularly lift the robot from the ground to fit the mopping pads after finishing cleaning tasks. Plus, with overlay sensing and tank level detection, users simply need to pay attention to be alerted when it’s time to refill the tank or replace the mop pad. If users cannot reach the device in time to do so before the next clean, the Roomba Combo j7 + will intelligently switch to Vacuum Only Mode.
In addition to this mop mechanic, users will be able to control the integrated water pump by adjusting the amount of liquid and the number of cleaning passes the robot will perform in each room. The new integrated basket and tank means there is one easily accessible place to empty the dirt and refill the cleaning solution, and the basket uses an automatic dirt removal system that does not need to be replaced for up to 60 days.
With all of these features, the Roomba Combo j7 + looks like one of the most maintainable, simplified yet sophisticated robotic vacuum cleaners we’ve ever seen, packaged into one slim and compact unit. We are curious how it fares in the tests, so stay tuned for our review.
Smarter cleaning for a smarter home
Many Roombas robots will also enjoy a significant platform upgrade that has already started on devices.
iRobot OS 5.0 will add to the already extensive list of features available on the system, which includes everything from personalized suggestions to voice commands and object detection. Earlier updates added the ability to identify and avoid pet poop.
Based on the principle of ‘thoughtful intelligence’, the new update, explained Dhamorikar, will provide improvements to existing operating system features, especially for pet owners and their families.
These upgrades include more detectable items such as pet toys, bowls, and litter boxes, as well as family items such as backpacks. This, Dhamorikar said, responds to the major challenge many homes have with robotic vacuum cleaners; the floor must be spotless before it can be cleaned.
Additionally, the updated vacuum cleaners will offer recommendations and improved cleaning around high-traffic areas in the home, including pet bowls and litter boxes, and large appliances such as cookers, dishwashers, and toilets.
IRobot OS 5.0 will also feature an active room skip that users can activate in the companion app or via Alexa, and the addition of more voice commands. The update will be available for new iRobot devices as well as most older models depending on hardware. This includes the Roomba 600 series, s9 +, i3 +, j7 + and m6.
The growing intelligence of cleaning robots like these allow users to be more than ever. Where previously using a robotic vacuum cleaner for regular cleaning required proactive management (and a lot more cleaning to reduce obstructions), we are rapidly approaching the legendary future of fully automatic and self-regulating homes – at least when it comes to vacuuming and mopping.
However, news of Amazon’s takeover of iRobot is still relatively fresh, so the announcement of its smarter, more personalized robotic vacuum cleaners may trigger some red flags, and consumers are worried about increasingly aggressive data-driven marketing.
We asked Dhamorikar about the company’s position on the matter regarding data privacy, and she explained that users must provide “explicit consent” when using iRobot’s PrecisionVision Navigation or any data-driven feature on iRobot devices. In a press release, the company said it “does not and will not sell consumer data.”
Dhamorikar adds, “iRobot has always been very proud to be at the forefront of ensuring that consumer data is highly secure and reliable and that engagement will not change.”
“We will continue to provide transparency to our customers about how their data is used, and our services will always remain available.”
While iRobot holds Tüv South CSC (opens in a new tab) Certification at the highest possible level is still a hard-to-swallow pill for skeptical consumers.
Home mapping has as many positives as negatives, especially for older people or people of varying degrees of fitness, and the type of technology iRobot uses could signal the beginning of the end of a decade of waiting for a true smart home experience. When it comes to the overall impact of the Amazon acquisition, we just have to wait and see.