We’ve seen robot vacuums like the Neato Botvac Connected finally include Wi-Fi connectivity and smartphone control, but to date, there’s been one conspicuous holdout — iRobot, makers of the Roomba that put robot vacuums on the map in the first place. That changes today with the release of the Roomba 980, the major update since the Roomba 880 in 2013.
Using the HOME app and Wi-Fi connectivity, you can have a degree of control over the Roomba 980 remotely. Like the Neato Botvac Connected, this boils down to being able to create and implement schedules and turn the vacuum on and off from the app. You’ll also have control over the number of cleaning runs the Roomba takes, edge cleaning, and the new and more battery-intensive Carpet Boost feature.
That’s all well and good, but the biggest upgrade over previous Roombas is found in the new mapping system. iRobot’s visual simultaneous localization and mapping (vSLAM) technology makes the Roomba far more efficient, adopting straight-line paths that other recent robot vacuums and, more importantly, humans usually use when vacuuming. vSLAM is part of the Roomba 980’s iAdapt 2.0 Navigation with Visual Localization system, which will keep the Roomba aware of its position in the room until it’s done cleaning, with no missed spots. True to its name, the mapping system can adapt to obstacles and pieces of furniture, moving around them or underneath when possible. So, there should be way less bouncing off walls this time around.
On the underside, sensors will be able to determine not only what kind of surface is being cleaned, but how dirty it is. This will help the Roomba 980 be more efficient, turning on Carpet Boost for dirty carpets while turning down the power for hard floors. This helps extend the Roomba 980’s battery life to two hours, which, if it proves to be true, would be one of the best for robot vacuums. It also keeps the rubberized, brushless cleaning system we loved from the 800 series, which makes cleanup and maintenance much easier.
The Roomba is still crushingly expensive, though. Starting today, the Roomba 980 can be purchased from iRobot for $900 in the United States and Canada, with Japan and some European countries getting it in Q4 of this year (so, sometime soon). Tempting, but we might just wait for the inevitable ColorWare paint job.