Is the New iRobot Roomba 980 Smart Enough?


We have smart TVs, smart computers, smart cars, and even smart lightbulbs. So why is it that we still haven’t mastered a smart vacuum? The only smart vacuum that immediately comes to anyone’s mind is the iRobot Roomba. Incredibly enough, the first generation came out more than a decade ago in 2002 when the average person had no idea what home automation or smart technology was. Yet, how smart really is the Roomba? It bounces around your house in a seemingly random pattern. It has sensors like many less robotic vacuums and moves with the grace of a wind-up toy. Does it clean your house? Probably. Does it waste battery? Probably. Does it save you immense amounts of time? Unless you own a 10,000 square foot mansion, probably not (and if you own a 10,000 square foot mansion you probably aren’t using a Roomba).

Perhaps iRobot has been reading my mind because they have just released the Roomba 980, which features the most upgrades in more than a decade. The biggest updates include:

  • The ability to connect wirelessly to the Internet
  • Smartphone app controllable
  • A Built-in WiFi modem
  • A low-resolution camera
  • A new “dirt detect” algorithm

What does all of this mean? Essentially, the Roomba is not less arbitrary in its path. The camera helps it better navigate your home’s layout, and the wireless connection helps it remember where it’s been (if it runs out of batteries before finishing vacuuming your home). This comes in handy since this new model can now finish its job over the course of two runs. If you surpass the two-hour battery limit or if your home is too dirty and fills the dustbin before it’s complete, the Roomba will remember where it previously vacuumed and will vacuum the areas it hasn’t yet touched. And with its new dirt detect algorithm, it offers a deeper clean than previous models.

But enough about these smaller updates. The biggest change is the addition of an app. Through the Roomba app, you can set cleaning preferences so your vacuum knows what to do when the bin fills up or whether it should complete two cleaning passes. You can even schedule your cleaning remotely using an interface that acts similar to an alarm clock. You can also view your cleaning history, including the most recent run, how long each run takes, what areas were cleaned, and more.

With all of these updates comes a hefty price tag – $899. If you have severe allergies, would rather stab yourself in the eye than vacuum, or just love everything home automation, the new iRobot Roomba 980 is worth the investment. If you’re a once-a-week vacuumer who is more inclined to crunch a chip deeper into the rug than to pick it up and throw it away, try out one of the earlier Roomba generations or stick to a good old fashioned push vacuum.

Photo by: TAKA@P.P.R.S