Americans love gadgets and hate housework. Not surprisingly, Roomba, a robotic vacuum cleaner, has become a hit among consumers.
Now, a new home robot promises to offer some competition to iRobot's Roomba.
Meet Neato, a vacuum cleaner that at the push of a button sucks up dirt and dust from floors and carpets quickly and efficiently. Neato has a "Room Positioning System" that lets the robot use laser vision to map your entire floor space and avoid most obstacles that systems like Roomba can only detect by impact.
Though millions of vacuum cleaners are sold in the United States every year, a very small percentage of them are robotic vacuums. IRobot has been the only company to offer a robotic cleaner that can pick up dirt without requiring someone to push it around.
IRobot introduced the first Roomba automated vacuum cleaner in 2002. Since then, the company has sold more than 3 million Roombas and the gadget has become a big hit among technophiles looking for a quick fix to daily chores. In 2005, iRobot launched a robotic floor mop called Scooba.
Despite a passionate community of users, Roomba has faced a few criticisms. The gadget uses a randomized algorithm to clean a room, which has led to complaints that it doesn't always cover an area completely. Roomba has also suffered from a small bin that limits how much it can clean on a single battery charge. That also limits its ability to clean multiple rooms.
Neato can solve some of those problems, says the company, because it is smarter. The device has a mapping technology that allows it to get a 360-degree view of a room. When first powered up, Neato maps the details of the room such as the walls, furniture and doorways within a 4-meter range.
So instead of the zigzag pattern that the Roomba uses, the Neato cleans in a precise back-and-forth movement.
But like the Roomba, the Neato can work with both hardwood floors and carpets. Users can also schedule Neato to clean. The robot will automatically return to its docking station once it completes a cleaning cycle or if it needs to recharge its batteries.
The D-shaped Neato also has a low profile — it is about 4 inches high — so it can slide under beds, couches and other crevices easily.
But unlike the Roomba, the Neato comes in only one flavor and a single price tag. The Neato costs $400, while the cheapest version of the Roomba is $130. The Neato will start shipping in February.