The robots are getting smarter. Two years after the release of iRobot Genius Home Intelligence, an AI-powered platform for its robot vacuums and mops, 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 Colin Angle, CEO of iRobot, giving the household bots a better understanding of your home and your habits, so they can clean both harder and smarter.
While the iRobot operating system won’t add features to existing products right away at launch, it’s laying the groundwork for a bigger leap. “The idea of moving from the iRobot Genius to iRobot OS is a statement that the robot’s intelligence will be the key differentiator of robots in the home,” Angle said in an interview with The edge. “iRobot OS currently offers more pet features, understands more voice commands, and can identify more objects than any other robotic vacuum cleaner.” Earlier this year, iRobot’s Genius 4.0 rollout added half a dozen new features to its Roomba robot vacuums and mops.
In short, as the competition in robotic home cleaning becomes more crowded, iRobot says its software is the reason it chooses its products over competitors. The analogy Angle offered was the way in which a person chooses an iPhone over an Android phone or a Windows computer over a Mac, choosing the hardware whose accompanying software impresses them most.
Currently, iRobot Genius, now rebranded as iRobot OS, is adding intelligent features to the company’s robots through the iRobot app, such as recommending additional cleaning schedules during the pet shedding season and suggesting Keep Out zones. when a robot encounters problems. It also powers 600 Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri voice commands, and the ability to clean specific rooms and areas with voice.
Angle says the new operating system will allow iRobot to develop a more complete understanding of the home and use that to expand into other areas of the smart home. While the OS will run on the robots today, Angle says it will run on other devices soon. That includes air purifiers from Aeris, a company iRobot bought last year. “There is a cloud-based home concept; we call it the home knowledge cloud. Other iRobot OS devices can access it, and this shared in-house knowledge means they know how to work,” says Angle.
He explained that the air purifier could automatically know which room it was in using the iRobot OS cloud. “It would be helpful to know that ‘I’m in the kitchen. It’s okay to make more noise. And there are many sources of pollutants here.’ Compared to his role in a bedroom, that would be different.” He added that air purifiers, such as robotic vacuum cleaners, are often turned off by the user because they make too much noise.
Angle says iRobot is working on making its air purifiers understand when a room or house is empty and go into turbo mode, only to go quiet again when you get back. “The idea is an operating system that isn’t just about activating the robot’s functions, but doing so in harmony with what’s happening in the house.”
The main concept here is an understanding of the home. With iRobot’s latest vacuum cleaner, the Roomba j7, which Angle has named as the most complete implementation of the iRobot operating system to date, the company has gained a new understanding of the home environment thanks to the robot’s computer vision platform, powered by the front-facing camera. This allows it to learn more about the layout of a home and understand detailed commands such as “clean for the counter” or “clean around the coffee table.”
It also has AI obstacle avoidance to identify and avoid over 80 common objects, including shoes, socks, cords, headphones, clothes, towels, and cat poop. Angle says j7 vacuum cleaners have detected more than 43 million objects in people’s homes, and more robots with front-facing cameras will be part of the company’s product line.
In Angle’s view, the data, such as maps now shared with iRobot devices, will soon be shared with other smart devices – possibly using the new smart home standard Matter – to fill that valuable missing piece of the smart home. puzzle to offer: context. (Angle says iRobot is active in Matter and that the IP-based protocol is one of the options to implement this vision, but they are still working on solving “privacy and security issues about how these connections take place and what you may do.” )
“We can know where things are, so that if you screw in a light bulb, turn on an air purifier, plug in a toaster, install a speaker, the location of those devices can be immediately understood,” Angle says. This can help speed up the installation process of new gadgets.
“The scope of what we do with iRobot OS is at this higher level of insight. The barrier to the next level of AI in robotics is not better AI. It’s context. We’ve been able to understand the phrase ‘Go to the kitchen and get me a beer’ for a decade,” Angle says. “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, then it really doesn’t matter if I understand your words.”
Speaking of object retrieval, Angle hinted that iRobot OS takes the company’s robots to the next level: appendages. “Only through understanding can the core promise of robotics — reaching out and doing physical tasks at home — really become manifest,” he says.
This effort to better understand our homes and how we live in them is key to developing the smart home that truly makes life easier; one with less problem solving and more harmony. Amazon calls it the atmospheric home, Google the helpful home, and now iRobot is promoting the knowledgeable home. Ultimately, their goal is the same: to understand how their technology can better fit into our homes, so that we will buy/use more of it. But when devices start working together, a reliable smart home can become a reality.