Roomba to Rule the Smart Home

Elizabeth Woyke for MIT Technology Review:  Smart homes are one of those technology ideas that never seem to catch on, despite the efforts of technology heavyweights like Amazon and Google parent Alphabet. Could Roomba, the popular robotic vacuum cleaner, be the missing link that finally makes home automation useful and convenient?

That’s what Roomba maker iRobot claims. The key technology isn’t the device’s dirt-sucking aptitude, but its ability to create navigational maps of people’s homes through an onboard camera, sensors, and software. The company added the feature to its more expensive models in 2015 so the robots could clean more efficiently, and it has been refined since. Soon Roombas will be able to recognize which rooms they’re in and identify large objects located in those rooms, says iRobot CEO Colin Angle. That “spatial understanding” will transform smart homes from “a frustrating morass of fractured devices” into cohesive systems that automatically adjust to fit their owners’ preferences, he says. Angle spoke to MIT Technology Review about his smart-home concept, the types of robots iRobot might release next, and how the company will handle concerns about user privacy.

How do you think an intelligent home should work?

What we’re seeing today is a collection of devices that are all controlled by their own apps. The promise of enhanced utility is actually being reduced by the complexity we’re introducing. A successful smart home should be built on the idea that nobody programs anything; the basic services in your home would just work. So you would walk up to your front door, which would unlock if you were authorized to enter. You would go in and the light would turn on, the temperature would adjust, and if you started watching TV and moved to another room, the TV show would follow you. When you’re no longer using various services, they could shut down automatically to save energy, or be set to respond to the weather or the time of day.  Full Article:

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