Why Roombas Just can’t Navigate This Straightforward Rug

A Roomba in the middle of dark and white square patterned carpet
Karlis Dambrans / Shutterstock.com

Around the a long time, iRobot Roomba vacuums have developed smarter and greater equipped to navigate. But for the longest time, the weirdest navigation they ran into came from an not likely source: carpets and rugs. With just the right pattern, older Roombas uncovered them selves trapped. And the motive is rather easy.

If you haven’t witnessed it ahead of, IBM researcher Dmitry Krotov shown the difficulty well in excess of on Twitter:

As you can see, when older Roombas make their way on to dim carpets or rugs with dark borders, they can get caught. If you have a related application, the Roomba will ping you with warnings that it encountered a cliff. That is correct it thinks the dim portion of rugs and carpets are cliffs or stairs.

A fast lookup on Twitter reveals dozens of comparable grievances in many scenarios, which include moving from a wooden floor to a darkish strong shade rug. In the worst-scenario circumstance, as earlier mentioned, the Roomba can get onto the carpet only to obtain itself unable to depart.

Many thanks to a tweet from iRobot investigate scientist Ben Kehoe, we know the trouble and how the corporation solved it. And if you’re guessing terrible programing or device mastering absent awry, that’s not it at all. In its place, it’s a hardware difficulty.

Older Roombas applied two items of components to steer clear of cliffs (or stairs). An LED to glow mild down and a photodiode to detect gentle mirrored off the floor. If the diode detects gentle, then there ought to be floor beneath the Roomba. But if the light-weight doesn’t bounce back again, then it’s assumed the Roomba encountered a cliff. That is the original alternative iRobot selected for a single uncomplicated cause: Individuals sensors are incredibly cheap. Any other program or hardware answer would have essential more effort and revenue, not to mention failure situations.

But you’ll see that the dilemma only comes about on “older” Roombas. That is proper, in accordance to Kehoe, iRobot did devise an inexpensive solution to the dilemma. Especially, the i3+, i7+, s9+, and j7+ designs all use a new sensor that better detects cliffs and does not toss phony positives on rugs. Just search at this other Twitter user’s video clip with the same carpet:

Of class, individuals are far more expensive designs, setting up at $550 and only heading up the line. But with any luck ,, the sensors will carry on to fall in value and make their way to far more economical methods. That may well be a even though, however. Kehoe defined it took a long time to devise the answer that last but not least worked.