iRobot has revealed its new software forum: iRobot OS. It is an AI-powered platform for its robot vacuums and mops two years after unleashing iRobot Genius Home Intelligence.
The operating system for its Roomba robot vacuum cleaners will bring them to the next level, says Colin Angle, CEO of iRobot. It provides the household bots with a deeper understanding of your home, and your habits can clean both more complex and more innovative. The robots are acquiring smarter.
iRobot corrects its robot vacuum operating system to better understand you and your home. iRobot has pitched a new operating system for its household robot cleaners.
While the iRobot OS is not immediately adding features to existing products at launch, it is laying the foundation for a more significant leap. “The idea of driving from the iRobot Genius to iRobot OS is a declaration that the intelligence of the robot is moving to be the primary differentiator of robots in the home,” expresses Angle.
“iRobot OS currently offers more pet features, understands more voice commands, and can identify more objects than any other robot vacuum.” This year, iRobot’s Genius 4.0 rollout counted a half dozen new elements to its Roomba robot vacuums and mops.
In short, as a challenger in the robotic home cleaning room gets increasingly crowded, iRobot is saying its software is the reason to choose its products over competitors. Angle’s analogy was how someone might prefer an iPhone over an Android phone or a Windows computer over a Mac, opting for the hardware whose accompanying software impresses them most.
Currently, iRobot Genius, renamed iRobot OS, adds intelligent features to the company’s robots through the iRobot app, such as recommending different cleaning programs during pet shedding season and proposing to Keep Out zones when a robot runs into trouble spots. It also powers 600 Google Assistant, Alexa, and Siri voice commands and the ability to groom specific rooms and zones using voice.
Angle says the new OS will permit iRobot to develop a complete understanding of the home and leverage that to unfold to other areas of the smart home. While today the OS will drive on the robots, Angle says it will soon run on different devices. That includes air purifiers from Aeris, a business iRobot purchased last year.
“There is a cloud-based home understanding; we name it the home knowledge cloud. Other iRobot OS devices could have a key to it, and through this shared understanding of the home, know how they’re thought to operate,” says Angle.
The air purifier could automatically know which room it was using the iRobot OS cloud. “It would benefit from the knowledge that ‘I’m in the kitchen. It’s okay to make more noise. And there are a lot of sources of pollutants here.’ Compared to its role in a bedroom, which would be different.” He added that air purifiers, like robot vacuums, often get disabled by the user because they’re too noisy.
Angle says iRobot is working on allowing its air purifiers to understand when a room or home is empty and go into turbo mode, then revert to quiet when you come back. “The idea is an operating system focused on not just activating the features on the robot. By doing so in harmony with what’s going on in the home.”
The key concept here is an interpretation of the home. With iRobot’s newest vacuum, the Roomba j7, which Angle cites as the complete implementation of the iRobot OS to date, the company has a new understanding of the home environment, gained through the robot’s computer vision platform powered by its front-facing camera. It allows one to learn more about a home’s layout and comprehend granular commands such as “clean in front of the kitchen counter” or “clean around the coffee table.”
It also has AI-obstacle avoidance to identify and avoid over 80 everyday objects, including shoes, socks, cords, headphones, clothing, towels, and pet poop. 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.
The idea is an operating system focused on not just activating the robot’s features but doing so in harmony with the home.
In Angle’s vision, the data such as maps that are now shared with iRobot devices will soon be shared with other intelligent devices. It potentially uses the new brilliant home standard Matter — to provide that valuable missing piece of the innovative home puzzle: context. (Angle says iRobot is active in Matter, and its IP-based protocol is one of the options for implementing this vision, but that they are still working out “privacy and security concerns around how these connections happen and what are you allowed to do.”)
“We can know where stuff is so that if you screwed in a light bulb, turned on an air purifier, plugged in a toaster, and installed a speaker, the location of those devices can be immediately understood,” says Angle. It could help speed up the setup process of new gadgets.
“The scope of what we’re doing with iRobot OS is at this higher level of insight. The barrier to the next level of AI in robotics isn’t better AI. It’s context. We’ve understood the utterance ‘Go to the kitchen and get me a beer,’ for a decade,” says Angle. “But if I don’t know where the kitchen is, and I don’t know where the refrigerator is, and I don’t know what a beer looks like, it doesn’t matter that I understand your words.”
Speaking of retrieving objects, Angle hinted at iRobot OS taking the company’s robots to that next level — appendages. “Only through understanding can the core promise of robotics – reaching out and doing physical tasks in the home — 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 makes life easier, with minor troubleshooting and more harmony. Amazon calls it the ambient home, Google the helpful home, and now iRobot is touting the knowledgable home. Ultimately, they are chasing the same thing — understanding how their technology can better fit into our homes so we will buy/use more of it. But when devices start to work with each other, a reliable smart home can become a reality.