Robots are becoming more intelligent. iRobot has introduced its new software platform, iRobot OS, two years after introducing iRobot Genius Home Intelligence, an AI-powered platform for its robot vacuums and mops. According to Colin Angle, CEO of iRobot, this operating system for its Roomba robot vacuum cleaners will take them to the next level, offering the household bots a better grasp of your environment and your routines, allowing them to clean both harder and smarter.
While the iRobot OS does not add functionality to existing devices right once, it does provide the groundwork for a greater jump. In an interview with The Verge, Angle explains, “Moving from iRobot Genius to iRobot OS is a proclamation that the robot’s intelligence will be the major differentiator of robots in the house.” “At the moment, no other robot vacuum has more pet functions, understands more voice commands, or can recognize more things than iRobot OS.”
In summary, as the robotic house cleaning sector becomes more competitive, iRobot is claiming that its software is the reason to pick its products over those of competitors. Angle used the comparison of someone choosing an iPhone over an Android phone or a Windows computer over a Mac, selecting for the hardware with the best supporting software.
Currently, iRobot Genius, which has been rebranded iRobot OS, adds intelligence functions to the company’s robots via the iRobot app, such as offering additional cleaning schedules during pet shedding season and suggesting Keep Out zones when a robot encounters difficult places. It also supports 600 Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri speech commands, as well as voice-controlled cleaning of particular rooms and locations.
Angle says the new OS will allow iRobot to develop a more complete understanding of the home and leverage that to extend to other areas of the smart home. While today the OS will run on the robots, Angle says it will soon run on other devices, too. That includes air purifiers from Aeris, a company iRobot purchased last year. “There is a cloud-based home understanding; we call it the home knowledge cloud. Other iRobot OS devices could have access to it, and through this shared understanding of the home, know how they’re supposed to operate,” says Angle.
He said that the air purifier could use the iRobot OS cloud to automatically detect which room it was in. “Knowing that ‘I’m in the kitchen would be beneficial. It’s fine if you make even more noise. And there are several pollution sources in this area.’ In comparison to its function in a bedroom, which is rather different.” He went on to say that air purifiers, like robot vacuums, are frequently turned off by their owners because they are too noisy.
Angle claims that iRobot is working on a way for its air purifiers to recognize when a room or home is unoccupied and switch to turbo mode, then return to silence when you return. “The concept is to create an operating system that not only activates the robot’s features but also does so in harmony with what’s going on in the home.”
Understanding of the house is the most important notion here. The Roomba j7, which Angle describes as the most complete implementation of the iRobot OS to date, has given iRobot a new knowledge of the home environment, thanks to the robot’s computer vision platform, which is driven by its front-facing camera. This enables it to have a better understanding of a home’s structure and comprehend granular directions like “clean in front of the kitchen counter” or “clean around the coffee table.”
Over 80 typical things, such as shoes, socks, wires, headphones, clothes, towels, and pet waste, are identified and avoided using AI-obstacle avoidance. Angle claims that j7 vacuums have recognized more than 43 million things in people’s homes and that the business will expand its product range to include additional robots with front-facing cameras.
Angle believes that data like maps, which is now shared with iRobot devices, may soon be shared with other smart devices — possibly through the emerging smart house standard Matter — to supply that crucial missing piece of the smart home puzzle: context. (Angle claims that iRobot is involved in Matter and that their IP-based protocol is one of the alternatives for realizing this goal, but that “privacy and security considerations around how these connections happen and what you are authorized to do” are still being worked out.)
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Better AI isn’t the roadblock to the next level of AI in robots. It’s all about the context. For a decade, we’ve been able to comprehend the phrase ‘Go to the kitchen and bring me a beer,'” says Angle. “However, it doesn’t matter if I don’t know where the kitchen is, the refrigerator is, or what a beer looks like if I don’t know where the kitchen is, the refrigerator is, or what a beer looks like if I don’t know where the refrigerator is.”
Angle alluded to iRobot OS pushing the company’s robots to the next level — appendages — while speaking of recovering stuff. “The primary promise of robots – reaching out and performing physical duties in the house – can only become manifest via comprehension,” he says.