Magical new Roomba empties its bin by itself - CNET
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The Roomba i7+ resting on its CleanBase dock.

iRobot

Hear that sound? That could be the new Roomba wiping the floor with its competition.

iRobot's latest robotic vacuum, the $949 Roomba i7+ is by far its most ambitious yet. And with a price just shy of a cool grand, the i7+ is also the most expensive Roomba ever. This vacuum doesn't just clean floors on its own though, it empties itself too. In fact, the robot will deal with dirt it collects entirely by itself, for weeks.

What makes this possible is the CleanBase, the key cog in the Roomba i7+ system. Part charger, vacuum, and mechanical trash can, this gizmo serves many functions. Most important is dirt storage. iRobot says the Clean Base has enough room for 30 full dustbins' worth of grime. Apparently that's the equivalent of 30 of the Roomba's floor cleaning cycles.

Theoretically, even if you run the i7+ daily, you shouldn't have to mess with the robot's dusty innards for a full month. Here's how it works:

iRobot

Two robots that work as one

The Roomba i7+ and CleanBase system is really two robot vacuums that operate together. After it's done cleaning, the i7+ returns to the CleanBase. There, the CleanBase empties the Roomba's dustbin (courtesy of its own powerful vacuum). During the transfer, iRobot explains that air won't escape. As a result, dust and other particles should remain inside, not leak out to become airborne.

iRobot

A paper bag, reminiscent of old school vacuum bags, serves as the CleanBase's dirt depository. Even after the bag is full, iRobot also claims you won't have to get your hands dirty. Just pull the bag out, toss it, then grab a new one. The CleanBase kit comes with a pack of two bags. Refill packs contain three bags and cost $15.

Bigger brain, better navigation

The CleanBase isn't the only thing new with this Roomba. According to iRobot, the i7+ has enhanced processing power and expanded memory. The company wouldn't disclose detailed specs. Still, it explained the speed bump is enough to support big navigation improvements.

For instance, the i7+ is the first Roomba able to commit maps of your floors to memory. The robot can also store up to 10 of these floor plans, each a maximum size of 4,000 square feet. That's a heck of a lot of real estate, enough to cover the typical American home (2,000 sq. ft.) multiple times over.

At IFA last week, robot vacuum competitor Neato also unveiled multifloor cleaning abilities. The company didn't say how many floor plans its robots could handle, nor did it pin down a maximum size for each map.

iRobot

The slickest of the Roomba i7's new functions though is targeted cleaning through voice command. Once the robot maps individual rooms, you can label them with common names. This, paired with support for Alexa and Google Assistant, lets you command the i7 with natural language. You can say things like, "Hey Google, clean the living room" or "Alexa, ask Roomba to clean my kitchen". The vacuum will then travel straight to that room, tidy up, then return to base.

Neato announced a similar feature, called "Zone Cleaning" at IFA. It'll allow users to create and target areas within floor maps for vacuuming. It doesn't look like you can label these zones. Neither can you issue voice commands to select them for special treatment.

iRobot Roomba i7+ with CleanBase at a glance

  • $949
  • Available for preorder now
  • Shipping Sept. 12, 2018 (US, Canada only)
  • Price without CleanBase is $699
  • CleanBase alone is $299 (works with i7+ only)     
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