iRobot’s Roomba robot vacuum is a pretty smart device, but it takes a big leap forward with Wi-Fi network integration and app-based control. That’s not the only change. iRobot is finally making good consumer use of the navigation technology it picked up when it acquired rival robot vacuum manufacturer Evolution Robotics in 2012, and Roomba — the world’s best known, if not the most popular, robot vacuum — may be better for it.
The new Roomba 980 is iRobot’s first Wi-Fi enabled robot vacuum, and also the first to clean up an entire floor of a house in a row-by-row sweep. That’s right: The days of the Roomba’s lazy circles, just to ensure that all floorspace was covered, are apparently over.
iRobot’s new flagship robot uses what’s known as VSLAM technology (visual simultaneous localization and mapping) to see a room and map its environment to determine exactly where it is. This lets the robot know how much of the room it has actually finished; even if it needs to get charged mid-vacuum, it will continue right where it left off.
The robot vacuum also got a more powerful, dual-mode motor that can ramp up the power when it detects it’s atop a rug instead of a wood floor, for example. During a demo, the robot — which hasn’t changed much design-wise since the 880 model — grew louder and applied more suction force as it rolled onto a thick area rug. As soon as it rolled off, it lowered the power (and volume).
The new robot also has a new lithium ion battery that provides up to two hours of cleaning on a single charge, according to the company.
Now that the Roomba 980 runs on Wi-Fi, it can tap into your home network. That also means you can control the vacuum and track its activity through Roomba’s first smartphone app (iOS or Android), the iRobot Home App. That is, its first app that doens’t count games. The app lets you start a cleaning job, schedule jobs and get live progress updates — including how long it’s been at work and how many dirty spots it detected. It will also tell if you if it’s charging or if it’s stuck, though you can’t really do anything to unstick the device until you get home.