iRobot, the Massachusetts-based company that started out making military robots and is now known mostly for its robotic vacuum cleaners, has just launched its newest little "minesweeper" for your living room.
The new Roomba 980 is Wi-Fi-connected and pairs with an app on iPhone or Android to let users remotely schedule cleaning sessions and view your bot's cleaning history.
In addition to having cloud connectivity, the 980 is built with a new floor-tracking sensor and a low-res camera for advanced visual mapping. In other words, iRobot says this one will clean more efficiently, moving in parallel lines (as anyone who has used a Roomba knows, its movements can appear to be...random). And it has a more powerful vacuum motor that can be activated through a feature called Carpet Boost.
Finally, while earlier models of Roombas could clean two to three rooms on a single charge, iRobot says the newest model can clean an entire level of a home before wiggling its way back to the dock.
The Roomba 980's biggest drawback might be the same as with every new Roomba: its $899 price tag. Some people might argue that for a vacuum cleaner that does everything except make a sandwich for you, that's not a bad price. But keep in mind that these robot vacuums — even connected ones — won't clean everywhere, which means you may still have to spend on another type of vacuum as well.
Hopefully your new, $899 Roomba will suck up some spare change for you
Fortunately, prices of older Roomba models tend to drop following the announce of a new one, so if you think you can live without a Wi-Fi-connected bot and a more intelligent mapping system, a Roomba 780 or 880 could be the way to go.
Neato, a competitor of iRobot, also just announced a Wi-Fi-connected Botvac that will ship sometime in the next few months and costs a bit less at $699.
For iRobot, the step into the connected home is a significant one. The Roomba 980 is the very first Wi-Fi-enabled product from the 25-year-old company, and has gone through additional protocol around privacy and security. I asked iRobot if other connected bots might be in the future (smart lawnmower, anyone?) and the company wouldn't say; but it's safe to say that some bots are probably easier to stop and start remotely than something like the floor-cleaning Scuba, which requires you to fill a tank with cleaning solution first.
We'll reserve final judgment on the newest bot vacuum until we can review it, so stay tuned.