Review round-up: iRobot Scooba 450

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We live in a world with robots. And we make them scrub our floors. Whilst you let that absurdity settle, consider the new Scooba 450 Floor Scrubbing Robot from the creators of the home robot category iRobot. Like its carpet cleaning cousin the Roomba, the Scooba is a pizza-shaped robot that only exists to make your tiled and hardwood floors clean. The Scooba 450 has Three-Cycle Cleaning Process which automatically sweeps and pre-soaks, scrubs, then finishes with a final squeegee.

But how is it to use?

Seth Stevenson at Slate.com described operating the Scooba as “remarkable”, to the point where he actually engaged with the spectacle.

The whole operation takes about 20 to 40 minutes, depending on the size of the room. It is remarkable to watch. I popped a beer, hopped up onto my kitchen counter with my feet dangling, and enjoyed the show. You keep thinking the Scooba might miss a big section, but—like its carpet-vacuuming cousin, the iRobot Roomba—it never does. It has sensors and programmed strategies to ensure it coats the whole room. You see it spiral out to gauge the size of the floor, then bump into a wall and redirect itself, and then finally crisscross the open expanses until no patches have been left unscrubbed.

Alex Colon from Gigaom.com was impressed with the Scooba’s range and the improvements in the new model.

I saw the Scooba tackle cereal, hot sauce, and an unidentified orange liquid on a tile floor with aplomb, but what I really like are the new information button and spoken cues. I’ve used older models of the Scooba in the past, and without this information available, it could be difficult to know exactly where it was in the cleaning process.

A closer look at the Scooba 450
A closer look: the Scooba 450

Katherine Byne from Expert Reviews spoke to one of the designers to find out what’s going on under the hood of the Scooba. And how it literally involves the Bomb Squad.

The cleaning algorithm that the robot uses is very dynamic… It does not assume anything about your room because often every time we vacuum the room it’s different. Chairs get moved perhaps in the middle of vacuuming, and we have created an AI system to allow full coverage without assuming furniture being in any particular place, and it gives the best coverage performance, especially for complicated areas. The origin of this cleaning algorithm was actually developed for the US Department of Defence for mine hunting, so we take coverage very seriously.

However, Sal Cangeloso from Geek.com notes a few drawbacks with the design.

Unlike a Roomba which will understand the size of a space and simply turn itself off or return to a dock when it’s done cleaning, the Scooba is designed to clean for the entire time cycle. Because its dirty water must be removed from the bot after a cycle, the it isn’t designed to return to a dock and it doesn’t work on a schedule. This means the amount of human interaction is much greater with scrubbing compared to vacuuming.

As Sal goes on to explain, it’s not quite the hands-off experience you might want from your robot cleaner.

The only bad part here is that some of the hair and assorted debris doesn’t make it into the reservoir and instead gets stuck between the reservoir component in the bot’s spring-loaded door. This final cleaning task is sort of like clearing out the shower drain — it’s kind of gross but in the scheme of things not too bad.

All the reviewers were impressed with the device, but Alex Colon from Gigaom.com gives a fair assessment of the choice faced by consumers.

At $599.99, the Scooba 450 is not for the casual neat freak. If you’re deciding between this and the $499.99 Scooba 390, I think the new features here are enough to justify the extra $100. But compared to the $279.99 Scooba 230 it’s a tougher call.

The iRobot Scooba 450 Floor Scrubbing Robot will be available for £599.99 SRP at iRobot.com and in selected retailers this Spring. You can find out more by going to www.irobot.com

iRobot Ava 500: Enterprise Robotics

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The Ava 500 Video Collaboration Robot, produced by iRobot and Cisco, is set to provide an executive remote meeting experience that’s a significant step up from the standard setup of Skype or Google Hangouts combined with a laptop. The Ava 500 can also be used to tour factories, labs, customer service centres and other locations where it’s not possible to be in the flesh.

Built like an all-in-one PC atop a moving platform, the Ava 500 is just about the next best thing to being there. It can be operated remotely via iPad, so you can move between rooms and meetings from the other side of the world, as well as see anything that’s happening on your travels. The large 21.5″ high-definition display means your colleagues can get a good look at you too, wherever you happen to be.

Aimed squarely at the enterprise market, the robot comes with top-grade security protection and interoperability that keeps unwanted interference out while allowing easy interaction with other video collaboration tools. iRobot suggests its latest model could be used for remote team collaboration, executive off-site management, and tours and inspections. Models should start appearing for sale by the start of 2014, though prices have yet to be confirmed.

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Vice President and General Manager of iRobot’s Remote Presence Business Unit Youssef Saleh had this to say: “iRobot is excited to work with Cisco to bring this next generation of telepresence to businesses worldwide. iRobot has been successful in introducing autonomous remote presence platforms to hospitals. Ava 500 will unlock new markets and applications for telepresence in the workplace.”

“Cisco is committed to improving communications, relationships, and productivity by helping people meet face-to-face over distances,” commented Snorre Kjesbu, Vice President and General Manager of Cisco Collaboration Technology Group. “The iRobot Ava 500 is a perfect example of using Cisco’s portfolio of high-definition video collaboration solutions to innovate and expand the reach of telepresence.”

A working model of the robot was demoed at the recent InfoComm 2013 Conference and Expo in Orlando, Florida. Head to www.irobot.com for more details about the company’s product line and further announcements about the Ava 500.

iRobot Mirra 530 and Looj 330 Pool and Gutter Cleaners: Robot Chores

Pool cleaning isn’t normally the first type of manual labour (or in some parts of California, Manuel labour) that I would assume would be under threat from robots. According to my knowledge, which is based solely on movies, pool cleaners are good looking wayward men in their early 20s who spend half their time idly raking the pool and the other half flirting with bored housewives and curious husbands. I need to watch better movies.

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However once again technology has lept in to innovate and iRobot has introduced Mirra 530 a Pool Cleaning Robot. Chore-laden children in sleepy towns across American movies can also rejoice as the company also procudes the Looj 330 Gutter Cleaning Robot.

iRobot Mirra 530 a deep cleans any type of in-ground pool surface and water. This means you don’t have to use the pool’s filtration system, hoses or booster pumps as often so you save and lot of energy and money in the long run. Mirra 530 provides complete pool coverage anda thorough cleaning through its iAdapt Nautiq Responsive Cleaning Technology which allows the robot to size up the approximate dimensions of the pool – then choose the optimum cleaning cycle for maximum efficiency. Mirra makes multiple passes over the entire inside of the pool, floor to waterline, including walls and stairs and constantly responds to its environment by navigating obstacles, changing directions when necessary and making sure not to tangle its 60-foot floating power cord.

Looj

The iRobot Looj 330 cleans gutters on its own at the press of a button, taking a dangerous yet tedious job and doing it for you. Looj uses a high-velocity, four-stage auger to blast away leaves, dirt and clogs while brushing gutters clean. In CLEAN mode, Looj automatically senses and adapts to debris, providing the most effective cleaning. Its low-profile design enables Looj to fit in more gutters worldwide (Looj is already on sale in North America). A communications range up to 50-feet between the robot and remote control handle allows Looj to clean long stretches of gutter without having to move the ladder and Looj is waterproof in up to 8 inches of water.

Mirra 530 features the latest in pool cleaning technology and an easy-to-use design, bringing yet another state-of-the art solution to iRobot’s line of home robots. This is also the first time that our outdoor robots, including the award-winning Looj 330, will be available internationally, a huge leap forward for the fast growing robotics industry.

Jeff Beck, chief operating officer at iRobot

Mirra 530 will have a suggested retail price of $1,299.99
Looj 330 will have a suggested retail price of $299.99

iRobot Roomba 700 Series

We’re suckers for automated vacuum cleaners here at Latest Gadgets – there’s just something of the future about them. That’s why we’re pretty excited that the creators of the world’s most popular robovac – the Roomba – have brought out the iRobot Roomba 700 Series, the most comprehensive hoover’ing robot to date.
iRobot, having sold over six million home robots worldwide, know they’re onto a winner with the Roomba. That’s why it’s evolution rather than revolution for the 700 Series, bringing a whole host of cleaning-enhanced super-powers to the familiar form.

iRobot

The biggest update for the Roomba is the iAdapt Responive Cleaning Technology. Using a combination of sensors – including aural – the Roomba monitors its local environment 64 times/second. That’s about 39 million times more frequently than we do at LG Towers.

What separates Roomba from its competitors is the Dirt Detect Series 2 (available on Roomba 770 and 780 models), which uses an acoustic sensor to detect debris as small as sand to suck up. It also uses an optical sensor to detect larger and softer debris (popcorn was the given example).

The Dirt Detect system, along with a more advanced cleaning head, improves overall cleaning from previous models, with iRobot stating a 20% improvement in the collection of fine particulates.

If the ‘bot detects a particularly gruesome area (your teenager’s bedroom), it’ll use its Persistent Pass Cleaning Pattern, using a brush-like, back-and-forth motion to focus on an excessively dirty area.

All of the 700 Series comes with new power management software that results in a 50% increase in battery longevity compared to the old model.

Other upgrades include the AeroVac Series 2 bin, which maximises air flow through Roomba’s cleaning head to pull more debris from the brushes and into the bin.

There are also two HEPA-type air filters keep fine household dust from re-circulating in your home, a soft-touch bumper to protect walls and furniture and – most usefully, a full bin indicator light, for knowing when your Roomba is has had its fill.