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iRobot focuses on cleaning with latest Roomba, new tech said to pick up 50 percent more dirt

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The Roomba turned 11 years old this year, and after working extensively to make its autonomous vacuum-cleaners smarter, iRobot is turning its attention to the muscle that does the cleaning. "We're gonna get a patent for this," product manager Max Makeev confidently tells me while explaining iRobot's replacement for the age-old vacuum-cleaner brush. The company calls the new equipment "AeroForce Extractors," and it's the headline feature of the Roomba 880, the new top-of-the-line vacuum cleaner robot being announced today.

The two rotors look like traditional vacuum cleaner brushes — minus the bristles. Instead, grooves across the surface extract dirt and other debris from carpets and direct them into the vacuum's air flow. iRobot says it's using a vacuum that's five times more powerful than its previous models, and combined with the rotors, the new robot is capable of removing "up to" 50 percent more debris, according to the company. The rotor design requires high air flow to be effective, so engineers reduced the size of the opening to bring greater force to the floor. They also put gaskets around every connection point inside the 880 to make sure that a minimal amount of pressure is lost. In addition to the cleaning benefits, the changes have allowed for a 60 percent larger bin over previous models.

Perhaps most importantly, the rotors should require far less maintenance as hair won't tangle nearly as easily. Tangled hair has been one of the key complaints with Roombas in the past, so if the improvement is nearly as good as iRobot says it is, pet owners should be pleased. With all of the changes to the vacuum system, the robotics themselves are unchanged in the 880 — representatives tell The Verge that iRobot is confident that it has found the sweet spot between performance, features, and price. That means the 880 uses acoustic and optical sensors to find dirt and it can move over a dirty area multiple times to clean up real messes, among other features. Unlike the 790, the 880 does not include a wireless remote for controlling the Roomba, though you can buy one for an extra $200. The Roomba 880 is available now and costs $699.99.