The most frequently asked question when it comes to robot vacuums is simple: Does it clean pet poop? The answer is still no, but today, iRobot announced a new Roomba that’s at least capable of detecting and avoiding your furbaby’s stinky accidents.
The j7 and j7+ look like sleeker versions of iRobot’s cheaper Roomba models. Overall, there aren’t too many design changes, and unlike the s9/s9+, it forgoes the D-shape for the classic Roomba look. For the j7+, the self-emptying cleaning base is much smaller so it can fit better under furniture, and it also has a hidden storage compartment for extra bags. (The j7 only comes with a regular charging dock.) The robot itself has a simpler button interface and the front-facing camera is better at detecting objects on the floor. That means things like toys, clothes, and other clutter, but also cords.
Robot vacuum owners will get how huge this is, but one of the worst things about these bots is how you have to clean up your house before you run a clean cycle. If you don’t, you’ll likely find a robot choking on a stray sock or errant cords under your desk. For pet owners, there are few things more traumatic than a robot vacuum running over poop and then having to clean it out after. Or worse yet, clean the poop stains your robot vacuum dragged all over your house. (Yes, I am speaking from experience.)
How it works: The robot will send photos of objects to the iRobot app and owners will be able to tell the bot to either clean around the object or avoid it completely. Owners will also have the option to give feedback on how the bot should handle similar objects in the future. For example, if the j7/j7+ detects a box of crayons in your kids’ playroom, you might tell it to just avoid that area in the future because there will always be some kind of floor clutter. Another benefit: You can now issue voice commands for the j7/j7+ for specific cleaning instructions, like, “Clean by the kitchen counter.”
But the really cool thing about the j7/j7+’s launch is the new iRobot Genius 3.0 software updates. Last year, iRobot introduced its Genius Home Intelligence platform as a way to expand AI-powered features across its suite of products. At the time, that included designating “clean zones” for spot cleaning, keep-out areas, personalised cleaning schedules, and seasonal cleaning recommendations for pet shedding and allergy seasons. This time around, the updates are way more practical and address many of the most frustrating things about robot vacuums as a whole. And they’re not limited to the j7/j7+. While it will depend on which Roomba model you have, the i7/i7+, s9/s9+, and Braava jet m6 bots should also get the full suite of updates.
The first new feature is geofencing. You could technically do this before with IFTTT commands, but now you can just create a digital boundary in the app. Once your phone leaves that area, that’ll trigger a cleaning session. Likewise, it’ll stop cleaning when you return. You can also tell your noisy bot to pipe down via the Quiet Drive mode.
For Roombas with smart mapping capabilities, the bots will also provide cleaning time estimates based on a particular room (or rooms) for a specific cleaning job. They’ll also gain the ability to auto-recommend room labels once they learn your floorplan and the objects detected within them. It might not sound like much on paper, but the gist is these updates will make it easier for Roombas to operate independently with as little human input as possible.
But all these smarts come at a price. The j7, without the self-emptying base, costs $US649 ($880). The j7+ costs $US849 ($1,151). It’s not quite as obscene as the $US1,300 ($1,763) s9+, and as far as robot vacuums go, the j7/j7+ are on the higher end of mid-range. We’ll have to test the bot out ourselves to see if it lives up to iRobot’s lofty promises. However, I should note iRobot seems extremely confident the object avoidance features will work. For any j7+ that fails to avoid poop, the company says it will replace it for free.
The j7+ is available starting today at iRobot’s website in the U.S. and Canada. It’ll also be available for pre-sale at retailers starting Sept. 12.
Editor’s Note: Stay tuned for local Australian pricing and availability.