There are now two Roomba models that learn the floor plan.
And until this my latest update, I told you that there weren’t any models that were capable of learning this (sorry about that one.)
Launched in September 2018, the Roomba i7+ and the i7 are the first models that remember the room layout.
Read this to find out how the i7+ and i7 remember a room’s layout and the ways in which the two models are different.
Looking back, the odd thing is that it has taken Roomba this long to design and create a robovac that learns a room layout.
To find out why this is I am going to give you a bit of a history lesson.
So, How Does a Roomba Work?
No matter how old or new a model is, all Roombas work by following a set of programmed instructions and responding to a range of built in sensors.
In the seventeen years since the 400 series was first launched, every Roomba model has used one of three generations of navigation systems- iAdapt, iAdapt 2 and yes, you guessed it, iAdapt 3.
iAdapt 3, which only the i7+ and i7 use, is the only system that remembers room layout.
I am going to take a look at each of these three navigation systems one by one so that we can better understand how different Roombas move.
Firstly, let’s take a look at the original system, called iAdapt
The overwhelming majority of Roomba models, use this first generation system.
From the 400 series (launched in 2002) to the 800 series (launched in 2016) all of these models use iAdapt.
Most of the time Roombas move in straight lines.
Two of the most powerful rules that control this system are;
- “Wall Following”
- Random Bounce
Wall Following is where, once a Roomba finds a wall it stays close to it, using the side brushes to pick up debris, until the wall stops.
Random Bounce dictates that a Roomba travels in a straight line until it hits an obstacle.
When this happens, the Roomba reverses a bit and rotates randomly before heading off in another straight line.
Other types of “Roomba” movements that you might see are
- Large spiralling moves
- “Room crossing” runs from one side of the room to the other.
The diagram below highlights the four moves described above.
which is part of this article.
All Roombas have a collection of sensors- most of which are built in but others are external
Built in Sensors
None of these sensors allow a Roomba to remember the layout of a room, they allow the device to safely navigate around a room by responding to different obstacles (such as furniture) and features (such as steps.)
The main navigational sensors are an infrared beam, a touch sensitive bumper and a wheel drop or cliff detect sensor.
This is mounted on top of the a Roomba and it detects obstacles and allows the Roomba to slow down.
Touch Sensitive Bumper
The bumper is mounted at the front and it stops the Roomba when it collides with an object, such as a chair leg.
This infrared sensor is mounted under the front edge of a Roomba and it stops the device when it detects stairs or a “cliff edge”- when the floor drops away.
The sensor works by “firing” an infrared beam at the floor. All the time that the beam “hits” the floor, the robotic vacuum will keep moving.
When the beam detects that the floor has disappeared, the device will stop.
The final built in sensor that all Roomba models have is not directly related to navigation but it does play an important part.
The Dirt Detect feature uses a crystal to locate areas on the floor that are relatively dirtier than other areas.
The main role of this crystal sensor is to find dirt.
However, when it does this a Roomba responds by cleaning the same area repeatedly- until the sensor stops detecting dirt and the Roomba moves on.
Once all of these instructions and sensors are combined, a Roomba will clean your room very thoroughly.
But because of the random nature of its movement around a room, with all of the “toing and froing”, the Roombas using iAdapt take an absolute age to clean a room.
And I am not joking.
They are so slow in comparison to manually hoovering a room.
Roomba vacuums can also respond to a few types of external sensors as well.
Theses sensors fall into three main groups;
Some models of Roomba, such as the 980, come with a couple of these external sensors.
But for most models, you will need to purchase them separately.
The first generation of these sensors combined virtual walls and lighthouses.
The most recent generation of these sensors combined a virtual wall and a halo.
But what do these terms mean?
A virtual wall is an infrared beam which is “fired” across a doorway or an opening and it stops a Roomba from crossing it.
As we have already discussed, Roombas move in very random patterns and this can include trying to clean two or more rooms simultaneously.
The lighthouse mode restricts a Roomba to one room until it has been totally cleaned.
The Roomba will then be guided into the next room.
A halo is a small “force field” that will cover and protect a circular area of up to 4 foot in diameter.
This is great to keep your Roomba away from objects such as pet food bowls, pet beds and areas with lots of cables.
The iAdapt 2 system is only used by two models of Roomba- the 960 and 980.
Introduced in 2015 on the 980, this system uses an infrared camera and sensors to create a map of a room or floor space.
Another name for the camera system is VSLAM (Visual Simultaneous Localisation and Mapping.)
To be clear, these two robot vacuums do not learn a room’s layout.
But the sophisticated camera system meant that these vacuums could move around a room faster and more efficiently than previous models.
Read this to find out how the Roomba 980 and 960 compare.
Although at one point, there were concerns that these maps were being stored and used for other purposes.
iAdapt 2 enables these two models to move around a room in a far more logical manner than previous models and therefore to clean much faster.
Take a look at the diagram below on the right.
Instead of following walls and moving constantly from one side of a room to another, iAdapt 2 allows these devices to clean in the same manner that a manual hoover would by moving from side to side and up and down.
The movement and patterns are not too different from the way that you might mow your lawn.
Watch the video below to find out more.
And now, let’s learn about iAdapt 3.
iAdapt 2.0 is clever as it allows a Roomba to create very detailed maps of parts of a house and because of this, iAdapt 2.0 models vacuum areas faster than it was possible before.
The genius of idapt 3.0 is that it enables the i7+ and the i7 to not only build sophisticated maps of rooms and different spaces within a home but to remember and store those maps. They really do learn the floor plans.
iAdapt 3.0 is also called Imprint Mapping.
These maps are stored so that a user can then label or name different areas of their home and direct the i7 to clean one particular area, such as the living room.
You can do this via the Roomba app or via your smart speaker: the i7+ and i7 are compatible with both Google Home or Amazon Alexa.
Watch the video below to find out more about iAdapt 3.0 or Imprint Mapping.
It might come as a surprise to learn that only two Roomba models are truly capable of remembering a room’s layout.
But if that is a skill that you need your next Roomba to have, you have a choice between the i7+ and the i7.
But if you have decided that you don’t need a Roomba to learn the floor plan but you do need a very powerful, feature packed and sophisticated model, try the 980.
I’m sure that it will not disappoint you either.