iRobot overhauls the brains of its vacuum robots with the introduction of iRobot OS


iRobot overhauls the brains of its vacuum robots with the introduction of iRobot OS

The robots are getting smarter. Two years after the release of iRobot Genius Home Intelligence, an AI-powered platform for its vacuum and floor mopping robots, iRobot has announced its new software platform: iRobot OS. This operating system for its Roomba robot vacuums will take them to the next level, says iRobot CEO Colin Angle, giving household bots a deeper understanding of your home and habits so they can clean both harder and smarter .

While the iRobot OS doesn’t immediately add features to existing products upon launch, it does lay the groundwork for a larger leap. “The idea of ​​moving from iRobot Genius to iRobot OS is a statement that the robot’s intelligence will be the key differentiator of robots in the home,” Angle says in an interview with The edge. “iRobot OS currently offers more pet features, understands more voice commands, and can recognize more objects than any other robot vacuum.” Earlier this year, iRobot’s Genius 4.0 rollout added half a dozen new features to its Roomba robotic vacuums and mops.

In short, as the competition in the robotic house cleaning space keeps getting tighter, iRobot says its software is the reason to choose its products over competitors. The analogy offered by Angle was the way someone might choose an iPhone over an Android phone, or a Windows computer over a Mac, and choose the hardware whose accompanying software impresses them the most.

Currently, iRobot Genius, now renamed iRobot OS, is adding smart features to the company’s robots through the iRobot app, such as: It also supports 600 Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri voice commands, as well as the ability to clean specific rooms and areas by voice.

Angle says the new operating system will allow iRobot to take a broader understanding of the home and use that to extend to other areas of the smart home. While the operating system runs on the robots today, Angle says it will soon run on other devices as well. These include air purifiers from Aeris, a company iRobot bought last year. “There is a cloud-based home understanding; We call it the knowledge cloud for the home. Other iRobot OS devices could access it and know how to work through this shared understanding of the house,” says Angle.

The Aeris Air 3-in-1 Pro air purifier next to the Roomba j7 vacuum robot.
Image: iRobot

He explained that using the iRobot OS cloud, the air purifier can automatically detect which room it’s in. “It would benefit from knowing I’m in the kitchen. It’s okay to make more noise. And there are a lot of sources of pollution here.” Compared to its role in a bedroom, that would be different.” He added that air purifiers, like robot vacuums, are often disabled by the user because they’re too noisy.

According to Angle, iRobot is working on allowing its air purifiers to understand when a room or house is empty and go into turbo mode, then go quiet again when you come back. “The idea is an operating system that focuses on not just activating the robot’s functions, but doing it in harmony with what’s going on in the house.”

The key concept here is an understanding of the home. With iRobot’s newest vacuum cleaner, the Roomba j7, which Angle calls the most complete implementation of the iRobot operating system to date, the company has a new understanding of the home environment, gained through the robot’s computer vision platform powered by its forward-facing camera is powered. This allows them to learn more about a house’s floor plan and understand granular commands like “clean in front of the kitchen counter” or “clean around the coffee table.”

It also features AI obstacle avoidance to identify and avoid over 80 common objects including shoes, socks, cables, headphones, clothes, towels and pet droppings. Angle says j7 vacuums have detected more than 43 million objects in people’s homes and that more robots with front-facing cameras will be part of the company’s product line.

In Angle’s vision, the data like maps now shared with iRobot devices will soon be shared with other smart devices – potentially using the new smart home standard, Matter – to provide the valuable missing piece of the smart home puzzle: the context. (Angle says iRobot is active in Matter and its IP-based protocol is one of the options for realizing that vision, but that they’re still “working out privacy and security concerns about how these connections happen and what you’re allowed to do.”)

“We can know where things are, so if you’ve screwed in a lightbulb, turned on an air purifier, plugged in a toaster oven, or installed a speaker, the location of those devices can be understood immediately,” says Angle. This could help speed up the setup process of new gadgets.

“The scope of what we’re doing with iRobot OS is at that higher level of insight. The barrier to the next level of AI in robotics is not better AI. It’s context. For a decade we’ve been able to understand the idiom, ‘Go into the kitchen and get me a beer,'” says Angle. “But if I don’t know where the kitchen is and I don’t know where the fridge is and I don’t know what a beer looks like, it really doesn’t matter that I understand your words.”

In terms of object retrieval, Angle hinted that iRobot OS takes the company’s robots to the next level – attachments. “It is only through understanding that the core promise of robotics – reaching out and doing physical tasks around the house – can actually become manifest,” he says.

This quest to better understand our homes and how we live in them is key to developing the smart home that actually makes life easier; one with less troubleshooting and more harmony. Amazon calls it the ambient home, Google the helpful home, and now iRobot is touting the knowledgeable home. Ultimately, they have the same goal – to understand how their technology fits better into our homes so that we buy/use more of it. But only when the devices work together can a reliable smart home become a reality.

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